10 to the End: Closing out the year with Christ

Good morning! Tomorrow begins a new series of devotionals! 10 posts to help us all reflect on this year and prepare for the next. These posts will also lead up to celebrating 1 whole year of Christian Control Freak! Despite some challenges and setbacks, It has been a great year for the blog and it’s because of all of our followers. Please join us as we close this year out, begin a new one, and celebrate a year of devotion and inspiration.

Lastly, be on the lookout for a very special announcement and a contest! Very exciting things coming your way! So so grateful for your readership!

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Pray for the Place Where You Stand

Pray where you

A lot of us say we have a plan. We say we have goals in mind and we’re doing everything we can to reach these goals. We say we have plans and goals but what we really mean is that we have an idea of how our life is supposed to pan out and if anything outside of what we expected happens we won’t know how to handle it EVEN if that same goal is still attainable.

When I say “we” I of course mean myself. When I have a plan for anything, it includes my expectations of how this plan should look as I’m working toward the end goal. Sometimes when I end up in a place along the journey that I never expected or planned for, instead of trusting that God is still going to bring the plan placed on my heart to fruition, I get frustrated because this part of it was never in my plans. My frustration tends to be what throws off my plan. I see where I want to be and I see the date by which I had planned to be there and then I see where I am. Instead of rising to the occasion and just pressing forward right away, I often spend time sulking over the fact that this is never what I had planned.

In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah is writing to God’s people while they are in exile in Babylon. They are in a place they never planned to be but God uses Jeremiah to send them some encouragement. Although they are in a foreign land God tells them, through Jeremiah, to basically make themselves comfortable. To operate in the way they would if this was their own land and to continue living out their lives for God because God knows what he’s doing. I’ve included a link to the entire passage but there are two verses that particularly blessed me.

Jeremiah 29:7

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will proser.

If you’ve ever found yourself having to live in a place you never imagined you’d need to live, or take on a job at a place you never desired to work this verse will get you right together. Sometimes we hate these setbacks so much we totally disregard them and treat them with minimal respect. Right here in this passage God says, wherever you are, whether you meant to be there or not, you need to be praying for that place to prosper because you’re there and if that place prospers, so will you. So let’s not huff and puff about how much we hate the place or the job. Instead, do it well, take care of it, and pray for it to prosper at your hands so that God can bless you.

The second verse that stood out is

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know that plans I have for you,” Declares the LORD “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This is a blessing for obvious reasons. It’s so encouraging to know that even if you find yourself in a place of discomfort, you can always trust that God has your best interest at heart. God’s true desire is to bless us so that we are able to tell others about it. Regardless of where you are currently, our future is important to God and God wants us to find hope in that.

So my challenge for us today is to look at where you are and know that God is still able to bless you right in the place where you never intended to be. Not only is God able to bless, God WANTS to do so. So let’s check our attitudes about it and start helping God cultivate the very blessings we wish to see right where we are. Stand in the confidence that God has a plan for what’s going on and pray for the place where you stand that just so happened to be outside of your plan.

Get Some Rest

get some rest

Hey you. Yes you. The one who is always available to help. The one who always assumes a leadership role. The one who is periodically on the verge of burning out but feels bad about taking time off. God wants you to sit down somewhere.

Church culture often reminds us that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” It is quite common for us to experience an abundance of work being done by a handful of people. Being overwhelmed for the work of the Kingdom is to be expected. If you have grown up in a Church setting, or if you’re just a common Type A person, we often grow accustomed to the feeling of being overwhelmed by tasks. So much so, that we sometimes don’t feel validated in the work that we’re doing unless we’re stressed out and on the brink of nervous breakdown.

Some would have us believe that feeling of having too much on your plate is a feeling we should strive toward. That if there’s work to do and it must get done, YOU must be the one to do it and you must do it without complaint even to the point that it can be frowned upon to request a moment of solitude. While it is true that there will always be work to do and that there will always seem to be a shortage of people doing it, the idea that we should always be eager to take on more than we may be able to bear can be dangerous to our mental and physical health and, quite frankly, is not what is pleasing to God.

31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Mark 6:31

The above verse is taken from a text in which Jesus and the disciples had been traveling and working hard to win souls for Christ. Jesus saw the work they were all doing and noticed that they were overwhelmed so he tells them to go take some quiet time to rest. As simple as that is, this is what is pleasing to God. We all have so much work to do and the work will always need to be done by someone. While it is certainly God’s will that we do the work and that we excited about it, we are only human and humans get tired. We should never be ashamed to admit that we may have overextended ourselves and need a moment to recharge.

My prayer for all of us is that we commit to the following things:

  1. Be mindful of our minds and bodies when they tell us we need a break.
  2. Say no and be intentional about it. You don’t always have to be responsible for every single task available. If you feel like you will not be able to handle too many tasks, you can decline a few responsibilities to save your sanity.
  3. Hold your brothers and sisters accountable. When you see that someone you love has a lot on their plate, offer to help when you can so that they can take time to themselves and help them to feel good about doing so.
  4. Get some rest. Whether it be taking a vacation to enjoy your friends or family, or taking quiet time alone, we all need time to replenish ourselves after we have give time and service to others.

Just as Jesus was divine he was also human. If he had to take time to rest, so should you.

 

Shift Your Focus

Shift Your Focus and

According to Dr. D. W. Johnston, a common characteristic of people who identify with a Type A behavioral pattern is “They [we] strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.” This particularly resonates with me. I’m always trying to accomplish something but rarely am I able to enjoy the accomplishments because I’m always thinking about the next thing I want to do. Where this has gotten me in trouble in my walk with Christ is that I tend to center my own personal wants more than anything.

The biggest hang up here in my walk with Christ has been the motivation behind my striving for goals and accomplishments. If I’m not careful, I’ll center myself in my ambition, meaning I’m making decisions and advancements strictly based on how I feel about pursuing them and how they will improve my general lifestyle. It isn’t wrong to want better for yourself, but if you’re claiming to be a person after the heart of Jesus, you can’t be your primary driving force.

“Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

If I base my ambition on strictly how others will receive me once I’ve accomplished something, I will never be satisfied. Seeking approval from others will always leave you empty. People are very hard to please and their support is as wavering as wind. So instead, focus on the blessing that can come from your actions. When you do whatever it is that you are called to do, will someone be blessed by what they’re seeing you do? Can someone be blessed by the outcome of the goals you’ve set for yourself?

Whether you are able to bless someone with material things or encouragement to continue through life trusting in God, if you are showing God to be present in your life you are succeeding even when it may appear to others that you are failing at things that are of Earthly importance. When it becomes difficult to find joy in the progress toward your goals and the process seems to bring disappointment, remember to rejoice in the simple fact that someone will see your life, your actions, your successes and your failures and be blessed by your journey.

Pause at moments along the way and celebrate what God is doing in your life. Even when you can’t tell exactly what God is doing, God is never doing nothing and everything always has a purpose. The challenge is to shift your focus from the importance of your own abilities and success to viewing your abilities and successes as tools toward pointing to God’s greatness in your life and you can never fail.

A Heart’s Desire

What Does Your Heart Desire-

Few things compare to the feeling of praying for something and even putting forth effort to work toward it, only to have it fall through. You pray, you work, you claim it, you move forward as if it’s already yours and eventually you’re deflated when that thing doesn’t come to pass or doesn’t turn out the way you wanted. Then you spend days and nights asking God if this is some cruel joke. Pleading with God to tell you why you weren’t allowed to have this one thing you really wanted and that you worked so hard toward.

As Christians, many of us are taught that whatever we ask God, if we ask it in Jesus’ name it will be given to us. We’re essentially taught that God is here to provide for us so the formula goes, tell God what you want and God will give it because he loves us and that’s what he’s here for. Although, it is true that God is our provider and that God loves us and wants us to be happy, it is also true that God is the authority. God isn’t a genie whose sole purpose is to pacify us by giving us everything we want but that’s sometimes how we treat God.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

We often hear an abbreviated version of the above verse to support the idea that God is here to please us. But “God will give you the desires of your heart” is only half the scripture and it comes with a condition. The verse begins by telling us to take delight in the LORD. That doesn’t simply mean to be happy about Jesus. It means to get to know Jesus and to be excited about who Jesus is in your life. Get happy about the fact that Jesus is LORD over your life.

LORD is an Old English term used to refer to someone who had power and authority over land and the people who worked on it. Jesus being LORD of our life means that he has power and authority to not only give us what we want, but to decide what we should have. As control freaks, this sounds like a bad deal. What’s the point of being able to ask things of someone who is all powerful if they can just not give you what you asked for? I want what I want, when I want it. The good news is that Jesus loves us and someone who truly loves you only wants what is best for you. Jesus has the power to give you the desires of your heart but the desires of your heart need to be in line with what is best for you.

Not only do we ask God for what’s on our hearts, we first have to open ourselves to allow God to literally place desires in our hearts. To replace our selfish desires with ones that serve our best interests as it relates to our purpose.  So, when asking for anything, the first thing we need to ask is what the LORD desires for us. The closer we can get to Jesus, learning what our purpose is and what kinds of people, places, and things support that is the first step to receiving the desires of your heart.

So when we are disappointed not to have received what we asked for, ask “was that person, place, or thing in my best interest? Is it something that would help elevate me in my purpose?” Sometimes the answer to that is a clear “no.” Other times, maybe what we asked wasn’t anything bad, it just wasn’t what God would have for us. But you can always trust that if God has our best interest at heart, for every “no” there is a yes that is greater than what we would have asked for.

The challenge today is before we ask God for a specific thing, ask God to enter our hearts and remove what’s contrary to who God is in our lives. Then we will be able to delight in the LORD and he will give us the desires of our hearts.

God is: Chasing After You

I once listened to a Christian comedian talk about his understanding of his relationship with God. I wish I could remember his name, but his message is something I will never forget. He talked about how he had gone many paths in life but everything he had ever done eventually lead him exactly where he needed to be. He said that God’s love, grace and mercy are like our GPS. When you’re using a GPS and it is giving you turn by turn directions, when you happen to take a wrong turn the GPS doesn’t just turn off and quit trying to direct you. Instead, it sees what you’ve done and immediately begins rerouting to take you where it originally intended for you to go, just using a different route now that we’re a little of course.  He said he believed that though he hasn’t always gone where God would have wanted him to go, he was always headed toward his purpose because God’s love, grace, and mercy are perfect and were always leading him there.

Honestly, this post could end there. Imagining a love that will always lead you toward what’s best for you is enough to be excited about. But to take it a step further, I recently was listening to a worship song called “Reckless Love” that took this to another level. The Chorus says

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

The later part of the lyrics is in reference to Luke 15:4 which says “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” to basically say that each of us is valuable enough to God that God would look for us when we are lost. So not only is God guiding and directing us, God is chasing us down when we’re too lost to even know we need guidance.

As people who like to control every aspect of our lives, we have to admit that we sometimes get ourselves in over our heads. We have a period when it looks like everything is going according to our plan and we often neglect our relationship with God and start to do our own thing, only to realize we don’t have full control and things were much better when we were doing them with God. The idea that God sees this and doesn’t leave us hanging to just figure it out on our own is a true example of selfless love. Of course God sees what we do and knows that we have a tendency to get beside ourselves and abandon our relationship. But thankfully God is not like us and doesn’t hold that over our heads. Instead, he’s chasing us down, never leaving us, sticking right with us until we’ve found sense enough to turn around and acknowledge him in our lives.

The challenge today is to be sure you’re beginning and ending your day with God. Include God in all your plans for the present and future. Allow God’s purpose to lead and guide you even in your daily life so that you stick close and are careful not to abandon the relationship. God has already shown us that he will never leave us and continue to chase us until we’re ready to have him. But let’s make a conscious effort to stay close.

Lessons in a Jar

You Are enough

We frequently pray prayers that we don’t realize we’re praying. We see things in other people and our hearts pray “Why can’t I be that way?” Or “Why am I not able to do those things?” The vulnerability in feeling inadequate by comparison takes these earnest prayers from our hearts to God’s ears and if you listen, God will answer them in the most amazing ways.

Recently, I was standing in my kitchen after a frustrating week. It was only Tuesday but I felt like the week had beat me up enough for it to be Thursday. I was having the kind of week that made every single little thing irritating. The control freak in me had tried all week (two days) to make sure that things would improve. I kept trying to stay positive and to rearrange my surroundings to work in my favor, but I was failing and it felt like I kept being reminded that all my attempts to succeed were failing. On this particular Tuesday, all I wanted to do, was come home, cook the meal I had planned to cook, eat, relax and hopefully recover enough to do it all over again tomorrow. But of course, that was too much to ask on this particular Tuesday.

I was at a point, emotionally, that I was just barely holding it together and I knew the smallest disappointment would have been the last straw and I would inevitably crumble under the weight in a full dramatic performance, as is typical for me at least once a month. That last straw happened to be in a jar. There I was, standing in my kitchen attempting to cook. I was almost finished but needed a jar of sauce to complete my dish. I reached into the refrigerator and grabbed what I needed. I placed my right hand on the lid of the jar and attempted to twist it off but it wouldn’t budge. I tried twice more and it only made my hand hurt. I considered eating without the sauce but that didn’t seem fair. Nothing had gone my way all week (on a Tuesday) and I thought the least the universe would allow me, should be to enjoy my food the way I wanted to eat it. But here I am pacing my kitchen floor, after smacking the bottom of the jar, after placing a towel over the lid for traction, after shaking it up and down for whatever reason, trying to figure out why I can’t open this jar.

I sat the jar down in frustration, rubbing my temples and asking what else I hadn’t tried. Should I ask a neighbor for help? No, because if I talk to someone, I’ll cry and I don’t need these people thinking I’m crazy. I had opened the jar before, why is it so difficult today of all days? Was this jar a sign that moving away from home was a terrible idea and I actually can’t do all this by myself? This is how dramatic I was being. In a last ditch effort, I tried something I hadn’t tried. Something that didn’t even make sense to me. I picked the bottle up with my right hand and grabbed the lid with my left hand. I’m not left handed at all. There’s no real reason my left hand should be more capable of opening this jar than my right because I don’t use it, but I have this other hand I haven’t tried so I’m going to try it. Sure enough, with one firm squeeze and twist, POP! The top came off and I got my lesson.

I had spent the last few days wondering why my gifts and talents weren’t producing in the same ways my peers’ were. I was looking at friends and family thinking, well what are they doing that I’m not doing? What do they have that I don’t have? And with a jar and my left hand, God told me to worry about myself. I may not have all of the resources I think I need, but have I valued ones I have enough to use them to their full potential?

Many times, we look at others and think we don’t have enough or that we ourselves are not enough for the task that we are being called to. Meanwhile, God is saying to us,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Your gifts, talents, resources, etc may be different from someone else’s but I’m the same God to them as I am to you. If I’ve given you a vision, I have also given you the provisions. You’ve exhausted your right hand, so try your left. You’re not any less capable or adequate than anyone else. Use and strengthen what you already have while you have it and whatever else you think you need will fall into place. God would not send you on a mission you are incapable of accomplishing and that is simply because God is incapable of failing a work God has initiated. Whatever the task, whatever the goal, whatever the unopened jar, never underestimate what you’ve already been given.

A Presentation

Holy & Acceptable

One of my biggest pet peeves is to give someone detailed instructions and they still complete the task incorrectly. I understand communication very well, so when I give instructions I try to think of every question a person might have in regards to the instructions in order to be sure the instructions are very thorough. So when something is not done according to the instructions I gave, it triggers my control freak defense mechanism that says “see, I knew I should have just done this myself if I wanted it done correctly,” even though I know I would have been overextending myself which would have only lead to further complaints. It’s even worse when you know the reason the task was incorrect is because the person did not read all of the detailed instructions I took time to make clear for them.

I was thinking to myself, I know that God is perfect and patient, but how many times have I taken that for granted?

The bible tells us to

“…Present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.”

Romans 12:1

Now, one could interpret this literally as it pertains to the condition of your human body. But for the sake of today’s devotion, let’s think about this in a broad sense. As Christians, we are supposed to make ourselves available to be of service to God at all times, living our lives in perpetual sacrifice to him. This includes sacrificing our time. Sacrificing time, as a Type A person, is a big issue for me but I’m understanding how important it is to dedicate time to doing the work of God’s will, as it is our purpose, and doing it in a way that is holy and acceptable.

It does take a lot of time spent with God to properly understand the instructions we’re given. How many times have we cut our prayer time shorter or skipped a study session in order to make more time to do something else we had planned to do? This is the exact same thing as the very scenario described above. If you have accepted God as the authority in your life, you are saying that you will complete the assignments given to you in a way that is acceptable to God. But we shortchange God when we do not sacrifice time to spend with God. We cannot read all the instructions or know what will be acceptable to God, if we do not take time to get to know God and spend time learning what his will is for our lives. We can’t say a quick prayer in the morning or bless our food on its way to our mouths and think that will be enough to complete our assignments well.

This does not mean God will have the same reaction to us that we have when someone doesn’t follow instructions.  However, with any relationship, you don’t want to be the partner who can’t be trusted to follow through. Think about how disrespected we feel when someone cuts corners on something that is important to us. So today, let’s reflect on our sacrifice. Are we truly concerned with the quality of effort we are putting forth toward our purpose? Are we truly concerning ourselves with our efforts being acceptable? Or are we just giving God what we have left after we’ve done all the other things that are important to us?

 

Lose a little…

Lose Yourself

Scrolling through social media, I see a lot of posts and kind words meant to encourage people on their various journeys through life. A sentiment I see often is one that is encouraging to those of us who may be experiencing the loss of friends and loved ones. Not in a sense that they are departing from this realm, but that relationships with friends and family members may become strained once you decide to take the path that God has called you toward. The posts usually say something like “There are certain people who can’t come with you where God is taking you…” Or something like that.

I’ve given that statement a lot of thought over the years as I’ve experienced shifts in my social life. I’ll admit I haven’t had to sever ties with very many people but that made me consider something else. I asked myself, If I’m not losing a lot of people what else should I be willing to put aside?

In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus starts to talk to his disciples about the suffering he would eventually have to experience. Peter, in disbelief, pretty much told Jesus that would never happen to him. Jesus said,

“Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Matthew 16: 23-25

Peter was trying to tell Jesus that he should never have to experience what Jesus knew was his purpose. Then Jesus called Peter, or Peter’s attitude toward his calling, a stumbling block. But instead of kicking Peter to the curb and telling him “you can’t roll with me where I’m going if you’re not going to be supportive,” Jesus understood that Peter simply didn’t understand what his purpose was. So he reminded him that in order to do this whole will of God thing, we have to be completely prepared to deny parts of ourselves. The fear and anger that Peter was experiencing in regards to Jesus’ purpose, are also feelings that Jesus was feeling. But Jesus had to be willing to deny himself the luxury of letting those feelings steer him away from his calling because he knew what he was doing was bigger than himself.

That hits home for us control freaks. There are sacrifices we must make on our journey toward our purpose that require us to let go of familiar parts of ourselves. Just like everybody can’t come with us where we’re going, there are parts of our own lives and personalities that we are responsible for putting to the side.

Peter was one of Jesus’ hot headed friends. He wasn’t a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination. That encourages us that God is able and willing to use anybody to accomplish his will. However, Peter and all the other disciples had to give up their whole lives to follow Jesus and I’m sure they were constantly having to check their attitudes and behaviors so that they were representing Jesus well.

So today as you begin your week toward the end of Lent, what is it about yourself that you are unwilling to let go of that may be stalling your process toward your purpose. Is it your temper and lack of patience? Are you too used to being on your own time and can’t fully commit to the work God is calling you to do? Are you simply attached to people and places that don’t encourage your growth?

Today’s challenge is to be real with yourself, take responsibility for the thing or things about your own personality that might be holding you back, and tell yourself to let go of that.

Sometimes you have to lose a bit of yourself to level up. Everything you lose with be replace with better!

 

Wait for it: A lesson from Tino


Tino is my dog. He’s a 1-year-old beagle who is very friendly but very mischievous. The dog is so smart that it has been quite difficult for me to train him. In my attempts to teach and also understand Tino, he has unexpectedly taught me his own lesson in patience and obedience.

Tino and I have a pretty good routine going. I get home from work, take him out, we play, then I’m able to do a few things around the house. Then at some point I go take a shower and get ready for bed. While I’m in the shower, Tino is completely unsupervised in my apartment. I’ll remind you, he’s very mischievous so I used to get apprehensive about leaving him alone, even to shower. I’d leave the bathroom door open so I could hear or see him and try to shower quickly. After a little while I stopped being so nervous because Tino does the exact same thing each time I take a shower. He sits quietly by the door until I get out. This is not something I’ve trained him to do. He has all the space and opportunity to get into anything he wants while I’m not looking, and instead he sits and waits for me on his own.

Initially, I thought nothing of it. I was just happy he wasn’t ransacking my apartment. But one day I really thought about how obedient he had decided to be and it taught me something about myself. Tino has a quality in his relationship with me that I’d love to have in my relationship with God.

There are times when we ask God for guidance or permission and don’t really get an answer in the time frame that we feel is reasonable. So, because of our inclination to want things to be the way we think they should be, We get restless and anxious and panic a bit. Just like Tino, we all have the freedom to do whatever we want while God is taking his time to get back to us. However, unlike Tino, too many times, we taken that opportunity. We didn’t hear anything from God so We just started moving and doing things We thought were going to work. Things that might not have even been bad things but they didn’t necessarily have God’s blessing and subsequently end up ransacking our lives. Now, God is not too busy taking a shower to get back to us, but things work in the time he designates for them to work, so what we’re supposed to do in the meantime is trust that God has our best interest at heart and have patience. We all know how difficult it can be to sit (figuratively) by the door and wait for God the way Tino waits for me.

My favorite part about Tino is that every time I get out of the shower he greets me with the same excitement. This tells me, he’s not just waiting for me because he can’t do anything until I get back, he’s waiting for me because he genuinely loves me. He could be doing other things but that’s boring when I’m not there to do them with him. This is what I want more than anything. I want to enjoy God’s presence so much that waiting on an answer from him is not me begrudgingly waiting for God to say or do something so I can have my way. I want to wait on God because that’s the homie! who else would I move forward with?

These are the three things I’m praying for myself and for you: Patience, obedience and a relationship full of love and desire for God’s presence. And I learned all that from a beagle. Go figure.