Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Things First

"But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." -- 1 Corinthians 14:40

Some days I struggle with order, especially when it comes to managing my time and money.  Yet, God calls us to be disciplined in every area of our lives.  Discipline requires the habit of doing first things first, whether that means writing our tithe check before paying our other bills, even if feel we can't afford to, or foregoing an enjoyable or beneficial activity because of more pressing responsibilities.  Sometimes it even means saying no to worthwhile endeavors, such as serving at church or volunteering for a committee at school, in order to maintain a balanced set of priorities.

Most days the first thing I do is have my quiet time.  It is something I look forward to each morning and sets the tone for the rest of the day.  But on days when life gets in the way and I am unavoidably delayed in meeting with God, anxiety and chaos creep in and leave me with a deep longing to be in his presence.  If I can somehow manage to make time for God and regain a sense of direction, then pretty soon peace settles in and I become content once more.

One of the hardest things we face in this economy is obeying God's command to offer him the first portion of our income.  Yet this is what God says:  "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it" (Malachi 3:10).  This is something I struggle with regularly, yet God always provides what our family needs, often one day at a time.

If you find yourself with more to do than time to do it, or expenses that exceed your income, try this:  give God the first portion of your income and the first part of your day.  Commit to him the resources of time and money that are his to begin with and ask him to help you better manage that which he has entrusted to you.  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lessons from the La-Z-Boy

"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, for he will freely pardon." -- Isaiah 55:6-7

When her stepmother and stepsisters go to the ball, Cinderella finds herself all alone and sad.  In Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," she sings with melancholy, "in my own little corner in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be."  In her sad little corner of the world, the only friends Cinderella finds to talk with are three caged field mice.  That is, until the fairy godmother swoops in to make Cinderella's dreams come true with a wave of her magic wand, "and they all live happily ever after."  In my experience life doesn't work that way.

I, too, have a chair in the corner of my den.  My La-Z-Boy is a place I sit each morning with my faithful canine companion Madison and wait, not for a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand and make my troubles vanish, but for the Prince of Peace to comfort me with his presence and fill me with his love.

My La-Z-Boy has become a sacred classroom, a place where Jesus daily teaches me lessons for living that I have shared with others in the books and devotionals I have written.  It is the place he has revealed himself to me as I have opened and read his Word and penned journal after journal of prayers.  Whether I meet him first thing in the morning or well past the stroke of midnight, Jesus satisfies my soul with his love and fills my heart with his peace.  He is always there and goes with me everywhere I go.

If you don't have a place where you meet with Jesus everyday, consider finding a quiet corner somewhere and making a daily meeting with him your top priority.  Meeting with Jesus won't solve all your problems, but through the pages of Scripture he will teach you everything you need to know in order to live a life filled with love, joy, and purpose.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Leap of Faith -- New Ministry Launched

Please click here to read more about my leap of faith into ministry and to learn how you can partner with me in this exciting new endeavor!

When God's "Yes" Becomes Our "How?"

"Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel...He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.  And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook." -- 2 Kings 18:5-7

Have you ever waited for good news or an answer to prayer yet were afraid that God's answer might actually be "yes"? Why is it that sometimes even good news makes us fearful? Perhaps it is because even good news sometimes requires change and nearly always, an extra measure of faith.

After receiving a contract from my publisher for a second book earlier this week, God's "yes" became my "how?"  Certainly having the first book published was a dream come true and watching God use it for his glory is a thrill I cannot describe.  But, how can I know for sure that God is calling me into ministry?  How will he provide the funds needed to execute this contract and put the second devotional book into production?  How should I go about launching a speaking ministry that will enable me to carry his message of encouragement to others?

We all face times in life when we yearn for a "yes" from God but are afraid of the changes it will bring.  Right now, I have a lot of questions about the direction God wants me to go in terms of this second book and my ministry of encouragement.  Odds are, you are facing similar questions in your own life.  How can we keep from being consumed by all those questions and our fears regarding the future?  How can we stay focused on God rather than on the challenges and changes we face?

As Hezekiah learned, we must trust in the Lord, hold fast to him, and follow him always, keeping his commands and trusting him for success in our undertakings.  We must know that even if God's "yes" requires us to chart a new course, he will be right beside us every step of the way.  Our direction in life may change, but God will never change.  He remains the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tate Publishing Offers Second Book Contract

Pass the Soap, Please

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." -- Hebrews 10:22

In life there are many benchmarks of maturity.  At sixteen, one can drive a car.  At eighteen, he can vote.  You know you have achieved maturity when at age fifty you undergo your first colonoscopy!  I'm not so sure a colonscopy is a benchmark anyone looks forward to, especially since the process of cleansing the intestinal tract is unpleasant and exhausting.  Yet there are people who routinely go through the colon cleansing process to rid their bodies of impurities and toxins.  Sadly, they don't change the dietary habits which make that practice desirable or necessary.

Neither do we as sinners ever completely rid ourselves of the destructive habits that make us impure.  That is why we need a Savior.  As humans living in a fallen world, we are incapable of keeping ourselves "unspotted from the world" (James 1:27, KJV).  We may think we are doing all the right things -- going to church, reading the Bible, praying, and serving others -- but we are stained by the sins we commit and corrupted by the worldly influences around us.

Jesus died on the cross to cleanse us from our sins, once and for all.  His blood covers all our sins--past, present, and future.  Unlike a routine colonoscopy, which is recommended every few years, we only have to acknowledge Christ's sacrificial death and receive him as Savior once.  Does that mean we will never sin again?  No, but as we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us time and time again and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Have you been cleansed once and for all?  If not, pray to receive Christ as your Savior and you will be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Are You Yelling?

"Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near." -- Philippians 4:5

Sometimes when talking with my teenager, the tone of his voice gets louder and louder during the course of the conversation and I find myself saying to him, "Why are you yelling?  I'm right here!"  There are times when I, too, become harsh in my conversation with others and must remind myself that "a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).  Why is it that we feel the only way to get our point across is to do it loudly and harshly?

In Philippians 4:5, Paul writes, "Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near."  How many times have I felt embarrassed or uncomfortable because of arguments I have had in the presence of others or have been subjected to as an innocent bystander?  We should all be mindful that at all times and in all places the Lord is near enough to hear everything we say and that perhaps he, too, is hurt by the way we communicate with one another.  There are times when we must be emphatic in our speech, but never should we be abusive.  

The next time you feel yourself reaching the boiling point in a conversation, remind yourself to be gentle because the Lord is near.  Use a hushed, deliberate tone instead of yelling to make your point, especially when talking with your children.  "Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark" (James 3:5b) and ask God to help you control your tongue.  It is possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to say what you mean without being mean in the process.

Click here to visit www.deedeewike.com.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Living the Dream

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." -- Psalm 37:4

Every now and then it is good to look back and consider all that God has accomplished in our lives. Over the past few years, my life has taken many turns, some for better and some for worse, but God has been my faithful companion every step of the way. My great joy is knowing that He will continue to walk beside me all the days of my life as I live the dream placed in my heart many years ago by the loving God I now serve.

In the fall of 2008, I began an online devotional blog which I titled "Living the Dream -- Lessons from the Journey." At the time I was homeschooling my children and dealing with the challenges of parenting, making ends meet on one salary, and the brokenness I had suffered as the result of some personal losses. In my search for God's answers and healing, I began writing devotionals, which my readers encouraged me to compile into a book, Good to the Last Drop: Refreshing Inspiration for Homeschool Moms and Other Busy Women. Good to the Last Drop is relevant for most women, even those who do not homeschool, because it provides God's answers to the problems of everyday living which we all face. While Good to the Last Drop may never find its way to a bestsellers list, I give God the glory for using anything I have written to encourage others in their daily walk.

I recently completed work on a 366-day devotional for adults, Morning Whispers -- Inspiring Devotions to Start Your Day. Please pray for God's will and provision not only for the publication of Morning Whispers, but also for whatever ministry God chooses to open up as a result of these two books. Pray that I may clearly know God’s plan and purpose for my life and ministry and walk in obedience to it.

God has proven Himself faithful to me over and over. While I still feel greatly challenged in many areas of my life, I know that He has a good plan for me and will accomplish His purposes as I surrender myself daily to His will. He wants to do the same for you. The more you spend time getting to know Him through His Word and through prayerful conversation with Him, the more sensitive you will become to His leading. The desires of your heart will begin to resemble His purpose for your life, and soon you will find yourself living your own dream.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday with Shakespeare

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." -- Colossians 3:16

Imagine my surprise when my teenager wanted to sit down on a Saturday morning and watch the movie rendition of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." This is the kid who grew up on Barney and still enjoys Saturday morning cartoons, if he gets up that early! Personally, I would have chosen the cartoons. I wondered if the screen adaptation would be truly Shakespearean or if the script would be modernized. Having had only one cup of coffee I wasn't entirely convinced I could handle the mental aerobics of watching Shakespeare on a Saturday morning. Still, we did and were highly amused especially since most of the principal actors were dressed as though they stepped out of the 1960s!

I am convinced that one reason more people don't read the Bible is because they find it as difficult to understand as one of Shakespeare's plays, especially if they are attempting to read the more archaic language of the King James version. With the proliferation of translations and paraphrases available, as well as helpful resources such as commentaries and dictionaries, a lack of understanding is no longer an acceptable excuse for not reading the most important and popular book of all time. Besides, we have the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Scriptures. Jesus told the disciples, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit will teach us, too, as we pray for understanding.

If you find reading the Bible a little intimidating, try reading it in a translation or paraphrase that is written in more contemporary language. Before you sit down and open the pages of Scripture, ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and understanding. The Bible says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). God's Word is full of hope and promises for you. Don't let intimidation steal your blessings. Pray, read, and receive all that God has for you in his Word!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pass the Soap, Please

"A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." -- John 13:10

My son and I are alike in so many ways that it scares me. We are both headstrong and unyielding at times, and that often leads to conflict. Most days I handle things relatively well, but recently I found myself saying things for which I later had to ask both God's and my son's forgiveness. I probably should have had my mouth washed out with soap, but I am not fond of the taste.

Sometimes we become exasperated by people or circumstances and find ourselves spewing words that are unbecoming a child of God. No matter how hard we try to avoid these undesirable outbursts, it is nearly impossible to hold our tongue in every situation because of the sin nature which resides in each of us. God understands that, and while he might not like the things we say, he is faithful to forgive our sins if we confess them to him (1 John 1:9).

When Jesus washed the disciples' feet, Simon Peter asked the Lord to wash not just his feet but all of him. Jesus quickly pointed out that because Simon Peter had already been made clean through Christ's forgiveness, only his feet needed washing. When we sin, our swift confession and a quick foot washing (or in my case, mouth washing!) is all that is needed to make us presentable to Jesus and restore our fellowship with him. His blood poured out on Calvary cleansed us from our sins once and for all.

Don't let dirty feet keep you from enjoying God's fellowship. Admit your mistake, confess your sin, and let your clean feet carry you as you walk beside him today.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It All Boils Down to One Thing

"The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." -- John 12:25-26

After everyone went to bed, I sat in my La-Z-Boy contemplating the frustration I had felt most of the afternoon and trying to figure out the reason for it. Bothered by the lack of my family's (and my own) commitment to take care of normal routine responsibilities, I came to the conclusion that a lack of commitment or discipline in general usually boils down to one thing: a lack of commitment to God or an imbalance in our relationship with him.

When we love God, we desire to do what pleases him. If we know him because we have spent time in his Word, we will have a much better idea of how we should live in order to bring him honor and glory. If we are committed to God, we are more likely to be effective time managers, conscientious workers, and benevolent contributors to the needs of those around us. Doing things with excellence becomes important to us because we know that we serve a holy and righteous God who expects the best from his children.

Are you frustrated by someone else's lack of commitment? If they fail to do their best, is it because you have failed to model a committed life to them? Perhaps the best way to encourage initiative in someone else is to first rededicate ourselves to Christ, then live out that commitment in our relationships with others and by doing all things with integrity and excellence.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Worth the Extra Cost

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." -- Philippians 3:8-9

Have you ever tried to tear off a piece of packing tape (or section of toilet paper, for that matter), only to find that it begins to shred on the roll? Recently that happened to me. After struggling for several minutes tediously trying to peel back the shreds and unroll the packing tape so that it tore off evenly across the roll, I looked at the name on the label and discovered that my husband had picked up a bargain brand in order to save some money. Honey, don't skimp on my packing tape. Some things are worth the extra cost!

That little incident got me to thinking about things in life that are worth the cost. For someone who wants a decent job, a college degree is worth all the late nights cramming for exams, writing lengthy research papers, and working an extra job to pay the tuition. For a woman who is cradling a newborn, no amount of labor pains or post-partum sleep deprivation can steal the joy of holding that armful of love. We go through our entire lives paying the cost for things worth having. How many of us, though, are willing to pay the cost of following Christ?

Jesus tells us that as his disciples we will pay a high cost to follow him. We will have to give up certain relationships, sinful habits, and the idols of fortune and fame. We will suffer hardships, persecution, and ridicule for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate cost, his own life, to give us a life of freedom from sin rather than eternal separation from him.

Are you willing to pay the cost of being his disciple? I have learned that it is far more costly to follow Christ with a divided heart than to give him my full devotion. It is far more costly to dabble in sin than to strive to live in the holiness that he requires because he is holy. The cost of following Christ is indeed high, but the freedom and peace that come from a life of obedience and wholehearted devotion to him is worth the extra cost.

Lost Treasure

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." -- Ephesians 5:19-20

In a world of contemporary worship, the treasure of traditional hymns has all but been lost. Most of us are familiar with "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art," but there are so many cherished hymns that you might not know. Many of today's contemporary Christian artists draw on the rich heritage of the hymns some of us grew up with, but for the most part hymns have been replaced by a new song written for a new generation of believers. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are those like my children who will grow up without the rich doctrine and familiar melodies of the hymns that are a part of our legacy of faith.

One of my devotional readings included the following lyrics from an old, perhaps lesser known hymn, "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy," written by Frederick William Faber in 1862. "If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word; and our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord." When I read that half stanza, the melody of this hymn, which I have not sung in decades, came pouring back into my memory. As I hummed this tune on my morning walk and meditated on the words of that stanza, the rest of the lyrics surfaced from memory giving me a complete song to offer in praise to my Lord.

When is the last time you sang a hymn? If you grew up in a church where hymns were the norm rather than the exception, then you have a rich storehouse of treasure laid up to encourage you in your walk with God. If, on the other hand, hymns are something with which you are unfamiliar, find a hymnal and begin reading the inspired poetry that men and women have written through the years. Your heart will be encouraged and uplifted by the beautiful expressions of faith and biblical truth that have been passed down for generations.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Forgiven to Forgive

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

The door slammed loudly as my teenager stormed off in a huff. As we had so many times before, we found ourselves at odds with one another over my lofty expectations and his failure to meet them. What began as a simple discussion over homework had somehow escalated into a shouting match that ended with his angry declaration, “Mom, I’m NOT like you!” My son was absolutely right. He is not like me; he is the unique individual God created him to be and, like the rest of us, is a work in progress.

How often do we find ourselves in conflict with one another, seeing only each other's faults yet denying our own? Have we forgotten our own sin and our constant need for God’s forgiveness and mercy? We are so swift to criticize others and slow to forgive their offenses. But, forgiveness is not an option. God commands us to forgive as he forgave us. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

If you are having trouble forgiving someone, ask the Lord to first forgive you and fill you with his love. Only as you receive his gift of forgiveness and clothe yourself with his love can you in turn extend that forgiveness and love to others.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Registration Day

"He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." -- Revelation 3:5

Somehow Registration Day for the school year always catches me off guard. This year was no exception. With the state's new immunization requirements, I found myself scrambling to schedule doctor visits to get booster shots and updated records. I'm not sure which is worse: visions of mass hysteria at Walmart because I waited too long to shop for school supplies or dollar signs streaming from my eyeballs as the money is drained from my checking account because of all these back-to-school expenses! Can there be a more stressful day during the school year than Registration Day?

It seems that we register for things our whole lives long. Whether it's for door prizes or the draft, baby gifts or back-to-school, we have become quite familiar with "signing on the dotted line." Registration has been a part of life literally since before Jesus was born. In fact, we learn of a very important registration involving Mary and Joseph which ultimately led them to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son" (Luke 2:1,4-7).

There is one dotted line that is far more important than all the others we will sign in this life, and it is found in the Lamb's book of life, that holy ledger we sign the day we confess and repent of our sins and give our hearts to Jesus, the holy Lamb of God. The Bible tells us plainly that the only way we can access God the Father and live eternally in heaven is by accepting Jesus as our Savior (John 14:6). "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In Revelation 21:27, we are told , "Nothing impure will ever enter it (the new Jerusalem), nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life."

Have you registered your name in the Lamb's book of life? It's not too late! "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Make today your Registration Day. Give your heart to Jesus and know that your name will be written in the Lamb's book of life, assuring you the blessed gift of his presence for all eternity.