What’s Your Sign?

Typically, inquiring about someone’s zodiac sign is an instant conversation starter. In the 70s, “What’s your sign, baby?” was a common pickup line. Astrology aside, we must realize that we are all messengers. Our worldview is evident in our words, actions, body language, and interactions. The question is, what are we saying? If you held up a sign that was your persistent message to the world, what would your sign say?

Some of us bear STOP signs because we are so deeply preoccupied with hurt, pain, shame, or regret that we’ve emotionally closed ourselves off. Others of us wear PROCEED WITH CAUTION signs because of friendships that only last as long as you’re in 100% agreement. Still, others are so fixated on money that our sign is the dollar symbol. There is a myriad of signs that people display daily for reasons that are completely legitimate to them, including UNAVAILABLE, OUT OF ORDER, BEWARE, and DEAD END.

Thanks be to God, when we YIELD and give our hearts to Him, He offers signs of:

WELCOME – “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:10-11

SAFETY ZONE – Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “You are my place of safety and protection. You are my God and I trust you.” – Psalm 91:1-2

LODGING – “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

VICTORY – “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:35-38

The Bible is full of declarations about God’s signs which are gifts that only He can provide. James 1:17 tells us that “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” God generously gives us those gifts, allowing us to extend love, grace, and mercy to all of the negative sign people, including ourselves. We are all UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Romans 3:10 reminds us “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;.  Yet, those positive signs transform us into Light-bearers bringing messages of joy, hope, peace, and love to those who feel weary, rejected, anxious, or defeated. If you feel that you’re carrying a negative sign, I encourage you to invite God to minister to you so that you can swap it out for a positive one. If you’re already carrying a positive one, I encourage you to praise God as you lift that sign high in your heart. Let it manifest in all that you do so that everyone you encounter will see The Maker of your sign.

 

 

Security Source

A few minutes of any newscast is enough to threaten our sense of security. With disturbingly increased frequency, regular people are losing their lives in ordinary places through surprising and devastating events.  Children and adults alike are being regarded as disposable as all manner of harm occurs against the innocent and vulnerable. The motives vary, but the result is the same: horrific events can throw us into a tailspin, making us feel helpless, fearful,  and angry that such suffering and evil even exists. We may question God, demanding to know where he when such horrific events happen. 1 Peter 3:12 says “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.””

On a personal level, we often experience pain, loss, disappointment, traumas, and hurts that will never make the local news. Some challenges are private and unknown even to those who are close to us. Others are humiliating where our pain is on public display. Those same woeful feelings cut even deeper when our lives are directly affected, yet the line of questioning may remain the same.

Whether the issue is a personal or global tragedy, we find ourselves struggling to regain a sense of security. If we try to serve as our own source of security and strength, life events help us to realize that we do not have nearly the level of power and control that we think. John 16:33 says These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Our sense of security is based in our identity. If we profess to be an entity exclusively unto ourselves with no other connections, then we are limited and only experience security in temporary and fallible ways. However, if our identity is anchored in a relationship with Jesus Christ, then we learn to trust God’s sovereignty far beyond every immediate issue or circumstance. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” As distressing as life can be, we can rest assured that even if “the worst” happens and our lives end earlier than we anticipate, we will transform to a different state of existence where we can see our Father’s face. We don’t have to live a daily existence fearing death, danger, nor failure. We need not be reckless, but we don’t need to be fearful either. This is because our sense of security relies on the unlimited and everlasting power of God rather than our limited and temporary financial, emotional, and intellectual assets. The beginning of 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”” Stressful, burdensome situations force us to recognize and admit our limitations while simultaneously providing opportunities for us to invite God into the midst of the situation where He can show and prove himself strong in concrete and specific ways. Proverbs 14:26 says Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” 

In order to feel certain in an uncertain world, you must carefully consider your security source.  Remember Psalm 31:24 which says Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.”

Seeing Beyond Circumstances

There is an appointed time for every thing. Ecclesiastes 3:1 begins by stating that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Oftentimes, we think of seasons only in terms of positive times of health, peace, and prosperity. In truth, seasons can be positive or negative, but are often an ongoing combination of both. Difficult or unexpected challenges demand our energy, attention, and resources, making it difficult to focus on anything else. If we examine carefully enough, we can still identity blessings even in the midst of the most disheartening circumstances.

When facing challenging seasons, it is important to think of your difficult situation as temporary yet rich. Even when the challenge translates to continuing your life in a different way, such as major health crisis or the loss of a loved one, the event may be permanent or have longstanding repercussions, but your perspective and attitude about the ordeal can gradually change. Challenging seasons are temporary because they are designed to strengthen and mature us, to provide an opportunity to strengthen our faith. Every aspect of our identity intensifies when we we are crisis.

The Lord allows us to endure challenging seasons so that we can experience Him at work and He can be glorified through our lives. In the midst of challenges, many people around you are watching to see whether your previous declarations of faith withstand your current situation. Will you still declare God’s goodness or do you lash out, and distance yourself, as if you are punishing The One who holds all power in His hands? James 1:2-4 reminds us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Building our faith involves cultivating a vision that allows us to see beyond our current challenges. Hebrews 11:1-2 tells us  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” It is easy to praise and glorify God based on what we see, but how often do we declare God’s goodness based on what we do not yet see, feel, hear, touch, or experience? We must speak life over ourselves in every situation. Speaking life helps us to fully internalize the truths that God is working everything together for our good, that we are His masterpiece and the apple of His eye, that the Lord loves us from everlasting to everlasting and will never leave nor forsake us. Speaking life and shifting our focus from our circumstances to our Creator makes it easier to see beyond whatever challenge we currently face. Our heavenly Father is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Those gifts go beyond surface appearances to address our deepest and most intimate needs for hope, love, joy, healing, deliverance and peace. If you feel uncertain of God’s love and intentions towards you, ask Him to open the eyes of your heart so that you can fully receive His love and every blessing He has designated to lift and carry you through your challenging season. 

 

Moving Forward

I observed an important lesson as I walked into church one brisk fall morning. A lady and her young daughter were walking into church ahead of me. The little girl was crying and screaming. She didn’t want to wear her hood, despite the chilly wind. She cried as she walked. The mother encouraged her daughter telling her things like it wasn’t much further, she was doing well, and that they were just around the corner. When the mother said “Look! I see the door!”, the little girl stopped crying altogether as they entered the building.

I admire both the little girl and her mother. The mother encouraged the child and stayed next to her, holding her hand the entire time. The little girl wailed and cried but never stopped walking.

In our journey of faith, we must learn to walk with the Lord, just as the daughter walked with her mother. Just as the little girl trudged forward through the freezing wind, even as distressing winds blow, we too must be determined to move forward. Despite our pain, despite feeling distracted, uncomfortable or unhappy, we must continue to hold the hand of and look to the one who can see far beyond our current place. Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Life presents its share of surprises, but nothing takes God by surprise. Psalm 139:16 says Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Through every difficulty, we must continue to trust God. It is our heavenly Father, the giver of every good and perfect gift, who equips us to move forward. Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds us that The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The next time you feel that you cannot go another step, think of that little girl. If you don’t feel you have enough faith, strength, or courage to move forward, pray and ask God to provide what you need.

Escaping the Self-righteous Danger Zone

We would like to think that we say and do the right things in every situation. Even when we don’t, we typically feel that our behavior is justified. But think about it – if we were blameless, we wouldn’t need Jesus to redeem us.

We tend to classify sins according to our personal view instead of God’s standard. Sin is more than committing actions that we classify as mean or wicked. Sin ranges from unbelief to operating outside of God’s will to committing offenses. Even in our sin, we tend to magnify the offenses we don’t commit and minimize the ones that we do. Romans 3:23 reminds us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

It is very difficult for some people to acknowledge that they are anything less than completely perfect in every way. However, that perspective dishonors God because the self-righteous are more concerned about glorifying themselves rather than glorifying our heavenly Father. Furthermore, self-righteousness dangerously gives non-believers the false impression that believers are somehow more worthy of God’s love than they are. God is our Creator and loves all of His children. 1 John 4:7 says “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” God is no respecter of persons. Romans 2:11 says  For there is no respect of persons with God.” We are saved by grace, not by our acts. Ephesians 2:8-9 saysFor it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” By contrast, those who are self-righteous are blind to their own faults, their own shortcomings, their own need for God’s cleansing and forgiveness. Self-righteousness is rooted in pride and accelerated by selfishness. The Lord sees our heart and knows the source of our prayer requests – are we praying out of sincere love and concern or praying with self-centered motives? 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Cultivating a rich prayer life means confessing our sins and asking God to forgive us. Sins are a deviation from God’s standard which means only God can forgive us for our sins. We must come clean before our heavenly Father and confess our sins to God. It is humbling and liberating to admit that we have fallen short of God’s standard and to seek His forgiveness. However, we cannot ask God to help us address wrongs that we refuse to admit. Confession renews our relationship with God. Confession opens the door to God’s intervention in areas where we struggle. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession cleanses our heart and renews our spirit, aligning us with God so that we pray according to God’s will instead of our own.

Peace that Flows

When life is predictable, we erroneously assume that we are in control. However, we can become unhinged very quickly when the unexpected happens and our illusion of control is compromised.

There is no shortage of situations that warrant our prayers. In part, John 16:33 says “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” From personal issues to community concerns to global news stories, we are bombarded daily by events which motivate us to seek God – either to express appreciation, register a complaint, or make a request.

The Lord is always available. He wants us to cultivate a rich and intimate relationship with Him. When we are fixated on the troubles of life, it hinders communication with our Creator. The enemy knows our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. He seeks to exploit every fear or concern he senses, amplifying stress to full-blown worry, fear, anxiety, or depression. The enemy doesn’t care about your feelings. He just wants you distracted and disillusioned. You cannot receive fresh revelation when the “Woe is me” tune is playing in your mind on full blast in heavy rotation. We must train ourselves to release every anxious or self-defeating thought to the Lord. He can handle those thoughts. We cannot. 1 Peter 5:7 says to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

The enemy wants you to view troubling situations through a warped lens that makes your problem appear larger than the God you serve. You cannot serve what you don’t trust. Trusting God is easy when life is easy. When life throws you a curveball, you can immediately discern your true trust source. We often confuse prosperity with peace. Psalm 29:11 says “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”

A successful career, beautiful residence, extensive bank account, or fine automobile may provide a sense of security or prosperity, but only God can bless you with a sense of peace. Peace comes from God because peace IS God. Peace is the very presence of God. John 14:27 says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” When you are blessed with God’s peace, you can withstand situations that could otherwise destroy you.

Peace is often compared to rivers because just like life, a river’s path is meandering, taking on a series of twists and turns. Yet, the river continues to flow in one direction while enhancing life for everything around it. When we release worry, fear, anxiety, and depression we make room for God’s joy, comfort, hope, and peace. We become receptive to God’s flow and enhance the lives of everyone around us. Philippians 4:7 says “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What are you wearing?

Our clothing decisions are the hallmark of many special occasions. On a global scale, fashion is nearly a trillion dollar industry. Clothing is a daily decision of personal expression. Our self worth is often reflected in the way that we dress. In addition, societal norms also influence how we choose to clothe and adorn ourselves.

Although it is important to consider our outer garments and how we represent ourselves as we navigate the world around us, we must guard against becoming overly fixated on our outward clothing. Matthew 6:25 says “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Our spiritual attire is far more important. We must prayerfully consider which characteristics fashion us above any physical garment we might wear. When we attempt to navigate the world without wearing the spiritual armor that the Lord issued to us when we joined His victorious army, we are naked and vulnerable, no matter how impressive we look on the outside. When challenges confront us – what are we wearing? Do we wrap ourselves in anxiety and depression like a shawl? Are we short-sited, wearing rebellion or rebellion like a jacket, daring anyone to approach us? Do we accessorize our biases with gossip and envy? Are we taking every step with guilt, regret and shame as our primary footwear? Stop right now and take that ugly stuff off. If you can’t bear to part with some of those familiar garments – ask God to help you shed them.

The world is rough. In part, John 16:33 tells us “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Just a few minutes of any daily newscast provides an extensive list of reasons why we must spiritually suit up and prepare for each day wearing our full armor. Details about the entire ensemble are available in Ephesians 6:12-17: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

As familiar as they are, the Lord wants us to trade in our old rags for the beautiful outfits He has custom made just for us. Isaiah 61:3 says “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”