Hungering and Thirsting for God

Cats Eating 2My sweet cat Hannah takes her food seriously. When I get up in the mornings, she runs straight to her empty food bowl, demanding her food. She is passionate about eating, and if Hobson or I get in her way while she’s trying to eat, she swats us away. “Don’t get between me and my food!”

This morning, as I watched her chomp her food down (as if she were starving to death), I was impressed by her ravenous appetite and fearless tenacity. But then, it made me step back and ask myself some questions about my hunger and thirst after God.

Am I that passionate about my daily food from God’s Word?

Do I run straight to His Word first thing in the morning?

Am I focused on His food, His Word, more than anything else when I get up?

Do I push distractions aside and refuse to let anything get in the way of my feasting on God’s Word?

Do I love God’s Word as much as Hannah loves her food?

Do I find the satisfaction in His Word that Hannah finds as she eats with a wholehearted commitment?

It’s a vivid picture of what I want my hunger for God to look like. I want to hunger for His Word with the same intensity that Hannah longs for her food. And His Word is always available, 24 hours a day. I don’t have to wait for someone to dish it out to me.

Hannah also loves her water and drinks as if I’ve withheld water from her for weeks (which I don’t). Do I thirst and hunger for God and His Word in this way?

As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Psalm 63:1: “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Lord, help me long for You and Your Word as much as Hannah longs for her food and water.

Putting Things in Perspective

PierSometimes, I just need to get away from the daily routine and get a fresh perspective on ministry. I did that last week by attending the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hosted by Carol Kent. This conference is focused on helping women  grow in the areas of speaking and writing, but I came away with much more than that. This conference pointed me to Jesus. The message that penetrated my heart most is: What has God called you to do? Do it. Glorify Him.

 

So many women spoke to my heart during this conference and I want to share their words with you. I hope these nuggets of wisdom will encourage you as much as they did me.

“Are you willing to take on the mantle God has for you?” – Suzanne Kuhn

“You are anointed and appointed for such a time as this.” – Becky Harling

“Build Jesus’ platform, not yours!” – Becky Harling

“A community can have worldly success without Jesus as its center. But if you are following Jesus, your focus is not on success the way the world measures it. Instead, your focus is simply to do only that which He has called you to do for His glory and not your own.” – Jen Ferguson

“Do you believe God can speak through you?” – Jennie Afman Dimkoff

“No amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for the neglect of the King Himself” – Robert Murray McCheyne (shared by Cindy Bultema)

“Pull me into your Bible study. Draw me in.” Gloria Penwell

“Stop writing. See if you can. If you can, then maybe God hasn’t called you to write.” – Lonnie Hull DuPont

“Sometimes you have to push through the stink to get to the good stuff.” – Robyn Dykstra

“Sometimes, when we’re looking for a shortcut, we make a wrong decision.” – Carol Kent

“Write a letter of surrender to God, laying everything on the altar. Ponder these questions as you meditate on Hebrews 12:1-2: What do I need to throw off that might be hindering me from writing and speaking for His purpose? What do I need to put on to write and speak for His glory and praise alone? What does ‘fix your eyes on Jesus’ look like for me in my journey right now?” –  Judy Dunagan

These comments apply to all of us, not just writers and speakers. What has God called you to do? Will you accept His calling, “take on the mantle,” and fulfill His purpose for you? Will you trust His hand if He leads you in a different direction than you would choose?

I also had the privilege to be interviewed by Carol Kent about my newly released Bible study, The Gift of Rest. I invite you to watch this short video with her.

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Another Independence Day

freedomI’ve been waiting for the phone to ring and a voice on the other end tell me that my loved one back home in Louisiana passed away. She has been on hospice for several months and stopped eating and drinking 10 days ago. The doctor didn’t think she’d make it this long, so we’ve been expecting that phone call all week. But, God alone knows the exact day our time on this earth will end.

As I think about Darlene and how cancer has ravaged her body, even taking her eyesight, it makes me long for the day we’ll be free from pain and sorrow and suffering.

This coming Monday, July 4, we will celebrate Independence Day, the day we gained our independence as a nation. But, in light of Darlene’s impending death, I’ve been thinking about another independence day – the day we gain our independence from this earthly life. I long for that Independence Day when we are free from these earthly bodies and the presence of sin. That will be an Independence Day beyond anything we can imagine – the day Jesus takes us home or returns for us.

John described what that eternal Independence Day will be like in Revelation 21:3-4:

God Himself will be among them and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…”

John goes on to describe the New Jerusalem, where we will reign with Him for eternity, in Revelation 22:3-5:

“And there shall no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bondservants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face … and there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have any need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them and they shall reign forever and ever.”

I long for that Independence Day – the day I’m free from this body that is slowly deteriorating; the day I’m free from sin in me and around me; the day I don’t have to hear about another innocent murder or a terrorist attack or the death of a loved one; the day I’m set free from pain and sorrow; the day I can bow before His throne and worship Him face to face.

As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day this fourth of July, let’s also celebrate what Christ did for us on the cross when He gave us freedom from the power and penalty of sin. And let’s look forward to the coming Independence Day when we will be free from the presence of sin – no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain.

Happy Independence Day!

I Don’t Want to Go to Jail

jailAs I read the transcribed voice mail left on my home phone this week, I had a feeling of uneasiness. The message basically said, “Hello, this call is officially a final notice from the Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately on our department number.”

My first response was, uh-oh, I must be in trouble. But then as I thought about the situation, I knew that I had paid my taxes, and my CPA is on top of things. So, something didn’t sound right with this message.

I checked around and discovered that some friends had gotten the exact same message. One friend’s daughter answered the phone and the guy proceeded to tell her they were going to send police to her house and arrest her if she didn’t immediately pay the money she owed. She was in tears, until her mom convinced her that this was a scam. “The police are not coming for you!”

As I did further research on this, I found out that the IRS never calls you about an issue like this. They will send a letter first and give you a chance to work things out.

Sadly, there are people who will receive this call and believe the lies. They will answer the demand to give a large sum of money in order to avoid jail. But it’s a lie. Not truth.

It reminded me how important it is for us to be able to recognize untruths – not just with telephone scams, but with what the world says about God’s truth, the Bible. There are plenty of people who are speaking untruths about God’s Word:

  • The Bible isn’t relevant today. Times have changed. That doesn’t apply to us anymore.
  • Everybody’s doing it, so it’s ok.
  • If it feels right, it’s not sin.
  • God forgives you, so go ahead and sin all you want.
  • The Bible isn’t the only Word of God. There are lots of other books out there that are God’s Word.
  • There are many ways to heaven. Just pick what feels good to you.
  • God doesn’t love you. If He did, why did He allow this to happen to you?

All are lies. They contradict what God’s Word says. And just like the telephone scams, we have to be alert and able to discern truth from lies.

I am often reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:3: “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you received a phone scam that could have deceived you had you not been alert? What are some other lies the world tries to convince us are truth?

Sun and Sin?

beach umbrellaWhen I saw my doctor’s name show up on my caller id last week, my heart started to race. I knew what she was going to say before I even answered the phone. “Ms. Keeth, your biopsy on your lower right leg came back positive for squamous cell carcinoma, and it needs to be removed soon.”

This past Tuesday, my dermatologist performed the Moh’s procedure to remove the cancer. It was larger than I had expected, and because of the size, the doctor was unable to put stitches in to close the incision. So, I’m sporting the “bandaged look” on my right leg, protecting the open wound that will take months to heal.

As I’ve thought about the diagnosis and removal of this cancer, along with the healing process, it reminded me of the similarities between sin and cancer and what I can learn from this situation. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Be alert.

Know what to look for that would be a warning sign or symptom of sin. If I hadn’t been alert to something unusual on my leg, I would have missed it and let it go on for too long.

Be proactive.

Deal with sin as soon as you realize it’s there. As soon as I noticed the unusual spot on my leg, I made an appointment with the doctor. I didn’t want to wait till next month or next year. If I had waited, it would have spread and done more damage. Thankfully, we caught it early before it spread outside the original tissue. If we don’t deal with sin immediately, it grows deeper and spreads. The longer we let it go, the harder it is to remove, and the more damage it does.

Understand the urgency.

Once I received the call with the diagnosis, I was counting the days till she removed that skin cancer. I didn’t want it to “contaminate” my body one day longer than necessary. That’s how we should feel about sin. We should want it GONE! YESTERDAY! Don’t let it hang around. Don’t put it off, thinking, “It won’t hurt anything to let it be for a little longer.”

Expect scars.

I will have a significant scar from this wound that will remind me of what was done. Sin also leaves scars. Some are more prominent depending on how deep and long the sin was allowed to hang around and do its damage. But eventually, the scars will soften over time.

Protect yourself.

We all know the importance of wearing sunscreen when we go outdoors, but, if you’re like me, I don’t always do it. If I had worn the proper protection in my younger years in the sun, I wouldn’t be dealing with my fourth skin cancer. In the same way, we need to protect ourselves from sin by putting on the armor of God each morning when we awake (Ephesians 6).

Don’t let your guard down.

The dermatologist tells me every time she removes a skin cancer that this won’t be the last one. Once you develop a skin cancer, you’re prone to more. I can’t let my guard down and think, “ok, I’ve dealt with it. I don’t need to be alert anymore.” Sin works the same way. Just because we’ve confessed and dealt with our sin doesn’t mean we’re not going to sin again. We’re prone to sin. So, we need to keep our guard up.

Who would have thought that God could use a skin cancer to teach me so much about sin?

The Joy of Waiting

WaitingI realized recently that I’m not good at waiting. (Actually, I’ve known that for some time, but God reminded me of it this week.) I don’t like waiting in long lines at the grocery store (or any store, for that matter). I’ll bypass a fast food place if the drive-through line is too long. I don’t like waiting for the food to finish cooking in the microwave, or for the traffic light to turn green. I don’t wait well.

This week I’ve been waiting for a biopsy result from the doctor’s office. I’m waiting for a response about a potential writing project. I’m waiting for an answer from some women I’ve asked to pray about leadership positions. I’m waiting for Hobson to grow out of his mischievous kitten season of life. Waiting. That seems to be a major part of my life right now. Actually, it’s part of life — period.

I don’t wait well. God, why do you want me to wait?

As I asked Him that question this week, He reminded me of how He uses waiting in my life to deepen my relationship with Him. He uses waiting in my life for good.

  • Waiting drives me to prayer. While I’m waiting, I’m praying constantly about the situation, talking to God throughout the day about it.
  • Waiting puts my focus on Him. While I’m waiting, I’m looking to God, seeking His will, even as I share with Him what my desire is.
  • Waiting prepares my heart for God’s answer. It gives me time to wrestle with the issue and the outcome, and to come to a place of sweet trust and rest, regardless of God’s answer.
  • Waiting draws me into a desperate dependence on Him. It disciplines me to not get ahead of God and take things into my own hands.

I’ve waited for things in my life, and God has often chosen to not give me what I’ve wanted or asked for. But the time of waiting wasn’t wasted. Waiting is hard, but good for us.

Yesterday, I began to write down Scriptures about waiting on God. I pray these verses will encourage you in the midst of waiting as they have me.

Psalm 27:14Wait for the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 37:7Rest (be still) in the Lord and wait patiently (wait longingly) for Him.

Psalm 40:1I waited patiently (intently) for the Lord.

Psalm 62:1My soul waits in silence for God only.

Psalm 62:5My soul, wait in silence for God only. For my hope is from Him.

Psalm 130:5-6I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His Word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord.

Perhaps you’re waiting for an answer from God about something today. How is God using this period of waiting in your life? What verses have strengthened you during the waiting? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 Tips for Managing Your Time

priorities 2Have you ever said, “I don’t have enough time to do everything that needs to be done”?

I said those very words this morning. How do we handle the overwhelming demands on our time when we only have 24 hours in a day? Here are ten tips to help us manage our time wisely. I had to remind myself of these tips today.

1. Begin by going to God in prayer, asking Him to show you how He wants you to spend your time.

2. Make a calendar for the week. It helps me to visualize the week at a glance.

3. Put your non-negotiables in the calendar first. These are mandatory things over which you have no control. Examples would be work, class, sleep (yes, we need to sleep), driving kids to school, mandatory meetings. Put these in your schedule first because they’re not optional. Make your time with the Lord a non-negotiable.

4. List all the things you must do that week. Examples would be time-sensitive phone calls, projects that have deadlines, people you need to meet with, doctor appointments.

5. Prioritize. What is most important? What is top priority? Put your priorities in your calendar according to the way you’ve ordered them.

6. When your schedule is full, STOP! Don’t keep adding things. (That’s easier said than done.)

7. Learn to say no. Think through your purpose. Say yes to those things that help you accomplish God’s purpose for you, and say no to those things that would draw you away or hinder you from His purpose.

8. Delegate when you can. What can someone else do that is not necessary for you to do?

9. Beware of time killers. Some examples are emails, internet, Facebook, Pinterest, TV, computer games. Those things in and of themselves are not wrong, but they can get out of control time-wise very quickly if we’re not careful.

10. Trust God’s sovereignty with interruptions and surprises. Things happen that we have no control over, but God does. See them as divine appointments from Him.

You can download worksheets from my Free Resources page to help you plan out your time and priorities.

Now it’s your turn! I’d love to hear some tips from you that have been helpful in managing your time.

God’s Path or Mine?

Outstretched arms

I’ve been re-reading a thought-provoking book: Seeking the Face of God by Gary L. Thomas. One section particularly spoke to me this week that focuses on our calling. This was perfect timing because I’ve been praying for wisdom concerning where God wants me to invest my time and gifts in light of His calling.

In one chapter, Thomas addresses humility and the dangers of pride. He made a powerful statement:

 

“Pride can turn us against our own purpose in life by filling us with ambitious yearnings that cause us to neglect our true call for today.” (p. 140).

To be honest, I have dreams and aspirations that I’d love to see fulfilled. But I don’t want to pursue MY dreams if they’re not HIS plan for my life. If these things are not His purpose for me, then I don’t want to invest my time pouring into something that would take me away from doing what He has called me to do today (and in the future).

He goes on to quote Francis de Sale:

“The enemy often suggests a great desire of things that are absent, and which shall never occur, so that he may divert our mind from present objects …”

A convicting statement. Am I desiring and working for things that are never going to happen, and allowing those efforts to divert my attention from the present task He has given me to do?

I’ve been mulling over these thoughts all week and asking these questions:

  • Am I giving myself wholeheartedly to what God has called me to do today, right where I am?
  • Or am I focused so much on something I want to be doing that I’m living in the future instead of in the present?
  • Am I neglecting something God has called me to today because I want something more?
  • Can I be content with God’s plan for my future, even if it doesn’t match up with my plans?
  • Am I willing to lay my dreams on the altar and let Him lead me down His path?

If I’m not willing to do that, I will be disappointed every time God doesn’t give me what I want. If I’ve put my dreams on the altar and taken my hands off, I can trust every step He chooses for me.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to leave Dallas and move to Memphis ten years ago. I thought staying in Dallas should have been God’s perfect plan for my life. Boy, was I wrong! God knew what He was doing, and He brought me to a job and ministry that is the perfect fit for me. He knows what’s best! I’m so glad I didn’t dig in my heels and stay put just because I thought that was the best plan. I had to let go and trust His calling. I’ve never looked back.

Perhaps you’re questioning what God is calling you to today. Can you trust His hand to lead you down His best path?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

My Favorite Devotionals

Books

I often get asked, what do you do in your quiet times with the Lord? I’ve written several posts about how I spend that time, but today I want to focus on one of the first things I do to get started. I like to begin my time with the Lord by reading a short devotion. It quietens my heart, brings my focus to Him, gets me thinking, and moves me into a time of prayer as I turn to God’s Word.

These are five of my favorite devotional books that I frequently use:

 

The Quiet Place: Daily Devotional Readings by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

This has been my favorite devotional book of all the books I’ve used. She just seems to nail what I’m thinking or struggling with. She gives a verse to ponder each day, along with thought-provoking application questions. I love this devotional book!

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

This classic book has been around for a long time, but I continue to go back to it from time to time. Some days, I have to reread sections to let the words sink in, but usually the words leap off the page and hit me right where I am. There is also an updated version available for those who want a modern-day language. This is a book worth having.

Streams in the Desert (Volumes 1 and 2) by Mrs. Charles Coleman

I love both these classic devotional books, although I slightly favor Volume 2. My mom used these devotionals, and that’s how I got introduced to them. They are comprised of short stories, poems, or quotes, and she always gives a verse to challenge us daily. These are quick and easy to read. Overall, a good devotional.

New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp

This is a good devotional book, although some days the writing feels academic. Other days, he speaks right to my heart. He has some excellent material in this book, and I’ve quoted him a number of times in my lectures and Bible studies. The devotions are a little longer than some of the other devotional books, but overall, a good choice.

Daily with the King by W. Glyn Evans

I’ve had this book for years and still go back to it from time to time. I have underlined something on almost every page. It is very relevant to issues we deal with daily. I highly recommend it.

Okay, these are some of my favorites. I’d love to hear what your favorite devotional books are. Please share in the comment section below. I’m always looking for new ones!

Going Deeper in Discipleship

Bible studyWhat do you do with someone who is grounded in her faith and wants to be discipled? In a previous post, Discipleship 101, I shared about the materials I use with a new believer or someone who doesn’t have a solid foundation for her faith. Today, I want to share what I use with someone who has the foundation and wants to grow deeper in her walk with God.

 

When I disciple someone at this level, I want to know what her spiritual needs are and how I can help her develop in a certain area.

We may discuss a book or go through a Bible study or work through a passage together. Sometimes, I answer questions she has about the Bible or God’s will or something that has come up in her life. I often give her things to work on specifically in her time alone with God. Sometimes we spend time discussing her ministry and the challenges she faces. We always pray together, and I continue to pray for her throughout the week.

Some examples of areas we may work on together:

  • Sharing her faith more effectively, sharing her testimony, or leading evangelistic Bible studies
  • Learning how to study the Bible and apply it
  • Talking through doctrinal issues or tough questions
  • Helping her determine her SHAPE (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences) and discern where she can serve most effectively in her SHAPE
  • Managing her time and setting realistic goals
  • Dealing with spiritual warfare
  • Making wise decisions and discerning God’s will
  • Developing her personal mission statement
  • Helping her trace God’s hand through her life story

In this level of discipleship, I like to balance our time between working on something structured and spending time talking through life issues. I determine how to spend our time together based on her needs.

Because women were asking me for materials to use in these areas, I developed Book 2 of the Building Your Spiritual Toolbox series: Building on the Foundation. If you’re looking for something to use in discipling someone in these areas, it’s available on Amazon.

I’d love to hear from you. What is another area that would be good to cover with someone in this level of discipleship?