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

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Have 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?

Thankful for Moms

Mom in blueI remember several times as a child when I wanted to trade my mom in for a new one. But over the years, I have come to value my mom and the tough love she showed me at times when I needed it most. I wouldn’t trade her for any other mom in the world today.

This weekend we honor our mothers on Mother’s Day. (We should be honoring them every day of the year, but this is the day set aside on the calendar to honor them.) Even though my mom is with the Lord now, I still want to honor her.

I thank God for my mom. She allowed me to pursue what God was leading me to do when she would have preferred a different direction. She wanted me to work as a medical technologist after college. Instead, I chose to go on staff with Cru and raise support. She wanted me to stay in the US, but I felt led by God to serve in East Asia for four years. Mom became my biggest cheerleader, after the initial response of, “You’re doing what???”.

She has always been there for me – helping me move from city to city; cat-sitting; storing my “stuff” in her home so my house wouldn’t be cluttered; loving me when I wasn’t very lovable. It is easy for me to honor her because of the mom she is.

But I realize some of you reading this are not looking forward to Mother’s Day. Perhaps you have recently lost your mom and she is not here this year to celebrate and honor. You may not have a good relationship with your mom, or she has not been there for you or has hurt you deeply. God is sovereign over the families He placed us in. It’s not always easy to understand why, but one day He will show us His purpose in it.

Sometimes, as a single with no children, Mother’s Day can feel awkward for me. Mothers are honored, and I feel as if I am on the outside of an “elite group.” But, God reminds me that even though I don’t have physical children, I have spiritual children. Even though I haven’t gone through physical childbirth, I have birthed “babies” into the Kingdom.

I am so grateful for two of my spiritual mothers, Bonnie James DeArmond and Joyce Bademan for discipling me as a junior in college. They made a difference in my life, a difference of eternal significance as they nurtured me in my faith. Paul referred to that aspect of discipleship in 1 Thessalonians 2:7: “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”

  • Take some time today to thank God for your mother, even if it’s not easy. He chose her to be your mom. Even though there were times I would have traded my mom in as a child, I thank God every day that He gave her to me as my mother.
  • Take some time to thank God for those women who have built into your life spiritually and have helped you grow to become more like Christ.

To all you moms out there (physical and spiritual), Happy Mother’s Day!

Running the Race

run the raceSeveral years ago, I ran a 10K race. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I almost quit after five miles, but thanks to a friend running beside me, I finished the race. Jenny wouldn’t let me quit, and she spurred me on step by step that last mile. Painful? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The Christian life is a race, and there are times we want to quit running and sit on the sidelines. So how do we finish the race and run it well when we’re tempted to quit?

The author of Hebrews talks about running the race in Hebrews 12:1-2. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus …

The key to running the race well: lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

If I want to run the race well, I need to be aware of those things that have the potential of hindering me on the race. Some of the encumbrances I need to lay aside are:

1. Fear – Fear of change, fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of rejection, fear of what others will think.

Fear can be my greatest friend if I let God use it to draw me into a deeper dependence on Him as I trust Him in that fear. But it can be my greatest enemy if I let it paralyze me and keep me from stepping out and moving forward in the race.

I almost let my fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown keep me from taking this job as the Women’s Ministry director in Memphis. I was comfortable with my life in Dallas. Why would I leave comfort and move to a new city, a new job, new friends, a new church? What if I disappointed the church? What if I couldn’t do the job? What if they don’t like me?

Those fears ran through my mind over and over, but I’m so glad I didn’t let those fears entangle me and hold me back from following God’s leading.

2. Busyness

Life seems to get busier and busier every day. I find myself running from one thing to the next without much time for slowing down and resting. Busyness can get me off the course God laid out for me. Sometimes I have trouble saying no, and I get distracted and take a detour. Busyness can lead to burnout, and if I burn out, I won’t be able to run the race as God intended. I have to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and follow His course for me, not the side courses that tempt to distract me or the courses others want me to run.

3. Discouragement 

Discouragement is a master trick of Satan to tempt us to quit running the race. He would love to get us so discouraged that we  give up and sit on the sidelines.

I get discouraged when others criticize me or when things don’t go as I had hoped. I get discouraged when I fail at something  or I’ve sinned. My tendency is to beat myself up. Discouragement holds me back from running the race because I feel there’s no reason to keep running.

If we want to run the race well, we have to be aware of those potential things that will entangle us. Lay them aside, confess them, and ask God to give the strength to run the race He’s designed for us. IMG_2070 (002)

Just as I needed my friend Jenny to help me finish the 10K race, we need each other to spur one another on to the finish line. Let’s run the race God has set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

What are some other encumbrances that would hinder us in running the race well?

You’re a Mess!

20160303_074956“What’s wrong with you??? You’re a mess!”

Those words came out of my mouth in frustration this past Tuesday morning. No, I wasn’t speaking to a child or to myself. I was talking to my sweet cat Hobson. In the midst of trying to have some quiet time with the Lord that morning, Hobson was a definite distraction.

He was chewing the cord on the lamp. I unplugged the lamp.

He tried to put his paw into the electric socket. I put a book on top of the socket in the floor to keep him from electrocuting himself.

He pushed the book aside and proceeded to stick his paw in the socket again. I put a heavier book on top, and finally he gave up and tried chewing the cord again. I wrapped the cord up.

Now, maybe I’ll get some quiet time, or so I thought.

He decided to move to the side table by my chair and began pushing everything off the table onto the floor. I finally stopped, looked at him, and said, “HOBSON! What is wrong with you??? You are a MESS!”

And then it hit me: I’m a mess, too. And God watches me make a mess, and He tries to protect me and redirect me, for my good. I’m sure there must be times He looks at me and says, “Crickett, what’s wrong with you? You’re a mess!” And yet, He loves me unconditionally.

To be honest, we’re all a mess without Jesus. And God sent His Son to die for us and to clean up our messes. I can’t really do anything to change Hobson except scold him or put him in “time-out.” But God can change us and clean up our messes through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

I am so thankful that He is working on me and in me daily.

As Paul said in Romans 7:24-25: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”