Accepting God’s Mercy

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51: 1

Forgiveness. We know that God in His mercy will blot out our transgressions”, and we recognize that we often struggle with forgiving others. But do we even realize how difficult it is sometimes to forgive ourselves?

I am sure we all have done things that we regret and can’t forget, and many live with a much deeper condemnation for themselves. And I am sure we all know, or have known, someone who just can’t seem to forgive themselves for past mistakes or transgressions.

What a burden of shame, guilt, and regret we can carry around. No matter how many times we are reminded of God’s forgiveness and how we need to forgive ourselves, we just can’t seem to find the strength or will to do so. It is almost as if we feel the need to pay the price by punishing ourselves. We just can’t accept that Christ has already done so for us, and all we have to do is accept His grace.

We may be individuals who live godly lives and are faithful to Him in every way, but yet, we carry this burden deep inside. If only we could let it go, how different our lives could be. What freedom and confidence we could feel as we face each day, and what contentment we could experience.

I remember one of the greatest mysteries to me as a child was how God could love a man like David and call Him “a man after his own heart” after all the terrible deeds he had committed in his life time – lying, deceit, adultery, and even murder. We know his life was far from perfect, but yet, he kept his eyes on God, was much loved by Him, and could boldly walk in His presence. Doesn’t that bring us much hope and comfort, for if God can forgive a man like David, see his goodness, and love Him, surely He will have mercy on the rest of us – if we too keep our eyes on Him.

We know the story of the young shepherd boy who slay the giant, Goliath, and who grew to become the renowned King of Israel. Yet, his life is probably most marked by his adulterous relationship with the beautiful Bathsheba; the subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, the Hittite, to remove him from her life; and the death of their child who was conceived during this indiscretion. He was fully aware of his need for repentance. He knew that admitting his sin and asking for God’s forgiveness was only half the equation. His heart needed to be changed and transformed. And once it was, David knew God had forgiven him and he could then forgive himself.

Psalm 51 is a beautiful reminder of his trust in Him, as he cries out to God for His mercy, compassion, and unfailing love to blot out his many sins. He realized from an early age that God was to be trusted and obeyed, and he was truly grateful for all God had done throughout his life, and he never failed to offer Him his praise and honor. He was aware that God cared about his life and he had absolute faith that He would see him through any and all situations.

There is much we can learn from the life of David, this “man after God’s own heart”, and one of them is that we can love, forgive, and accept ourselves and be the person God made us to be. Yes, we are weak and broken at times, but through His Spirit in us, God will help us to stand ready to receive the forgiveness and grace He has to give, and we can go forward in following Him.

 Prayer

Our heavenly Father, thank you for your holy Word and its stories of your everlasting love. Help us to release our hearts from unforgiveness and begin the process of healing with your love and grace. Help us that we too, like David, will keep our eyes and our hearts focused on you. Amen.

Worship God in Awe

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12: 28

On this day, let us be thankful. Let us worship God with reverence and awe!

This verse reminds us that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken!” Are you not in awe of those words? It is almost unfathomable, isn’t it? But we have His promise that there is nothing in this life and for all eternity that can ever take His presence and love away from us – not ever!

That in itself is cause for worship and praise. But when we think of how thankful we are for the blessings of life and family, we have even more reason to be in awe of His goodness to us. And what about the joy and gratitude we have in our hearts for the saving grace of Christ?

Hopefully, this is one of those days when you are feeling blessed and as if you have every reason to give God praise. But if we’re honest, we can all admit that we have those days when we just aren’t feeling it, don’t we? We have that “emptiness” deep inside when we are so consumed with the busyness of life and all its burdens that we can’t find either gratitude or joy. God seems very distant and life seems overwhelming.

But this verse is a good reminder that we have every reason to worship Him, for He is ALWAYS worthy of our praise. We don’t have to be singing or worshiping with others, but we can quietly enjoy His presence and go to Him with hearts of love, praise, and honor. Worshiping God should be about encountering Him, connecting with Him in a deep, personal, and passionate way. We should long to express our love and adoration for Him. God doesn’t just want our presence in church on Sunday mornings. He wants all of us all of the time – our minds, bodies, emotions, hearts, and souls.

Our worship should be done with enthusiasm and gratitude and a desire  to catch a glimpse of His love to refresh our spirits and renew our trust in Him. We have every reason to stand in total awe of His love and grace every single day, and we should remember to honor Him. And as we worship and praise His most holy name, our eyes will be taken off our own circumstances and the problems of this world and placed on Him. How reassuring to be reminded that His presence will always carry us through all life has to bring.

May our hearts be changed for Him. May we never lose our complete and total awe in His power, in His glory, and in His goodness to us.

 Prayer   

Our most gracious Father, may we always remember that you are constantly with us – loving us and encouraging us on. May we never fail to glorify and worship you with reverence and awe, for you are truly worthy of our love and gratitude. Amen

A House Built On Rock

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7: 24 – 25

All morning I had the song, “How Firm a Foundation” in my head and this verse came to mind! Isn’t it amazing how one little thing can put a song in your heart!

I had gone upstairs to put something away, and I saw the garage the boys had built out of Zenga wooden blocks the last time they were here. I knew it would be awhile before they returned, so I put them away. It  was a sweet reminder of all the many times we have built towers, buildings, and parking lots. I smiled as I remembered how they all usually toppled down before we got them completed – especially if we were building on a rug or carpet – because there wasn’t a firm foundation, and we would have to start over and over again! What fun we have had doing so, and how proud they were when we finally finished!

Jesus had such a special way of teaching simple lessons through his many parables, and this one from Matthew 7 is about “The Wise and Foolish Builders” who had a choice as to what type of “house” they would build. After giving a long, teaching session on many different topics, Jesus then gave those present 2 options – to listen to Him and be like the wise builder who built his house on rock, or to fail to heed His message and be like the foolish builder who built his on sand.

In this analogy, Jesus helps us to see the 2 things the wise builder does. He hears Jesus’s words and then he does what Jesus asks of Him. He builds his house on a firm foundation and he is ready for what will come. The foolish builder, on the other hand, also heard Jesus, but he failed to do what was required of Him. His foundation was weak, and when the storms came, his house was not strong enough to endure them.

Our “houses” – our faith, our spiritual lives – need a strong foundation. If we choose not to do the things that are required of us in living a life dedicated to God through our love, faithfulness to His Word, and service, it is as if our “houses” are built on sand. We won’t have the strong, trusting relationship with Him that we need.

Just as in the parable, for many years all may be well, but one day, the storms will come, with all their pain and despair. And when they do, if our relationship with God is not what it should be, then we will have nothing on which to stand, and our faith will falter.

Our faith needs a strong foundation! Then we will have the assurance of knowing that we are in His loving care. We will feel His presence and His strength. He will be our Rock and our refuge in times of trouble and despair. 

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for your lessons on life found in your Word and how we should live to be pleasing in your sight. Help us to build strong foundations of faith and devotion to you and be worthy of your love and grace. Amen

Understanding Man’s Folly

A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19: 3

We humans love to take credit when things are going well, don’t we? Oh, but when they are going badly, how we love to blame someone else! It’s not easy to accept responsibility when something goes wrong or when mistakes are made, is it?

Years ago, there was a comedy show in which a character was always quoting the line, “The devil made me do it! The devil made me do it!” It was humorous, and for quite a while afterwards, you would hear individuals jokingly reciting the line when they were doing something they knew they shouldn’t.

It’s human nature to want to put the blame on others when bad things occur in our lives so we don’t have to deal with the regret, guilt, or shame. And it’s even easier to want to blame God. We may find ourselves saying, “God, why would you let this happen to me, to my family or to someone I care about? But sometimes we can’t look any further than ourselves. There is no one else to blame!

God created us out of love and He wanted us to experience that same love and to share it with others. In order for us to do so, He gave us free will so we might choose whether to love or not to love, to follow Him or go our own way. Loving God or someone else is always a choice we consciously make. From the beginning of time, unfortunately, many have chosen to use that free will to reject God and to walk away from His truth and goodness. And because of that, evil has been interjected into our lives. Sometimes we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, and abusive. Our own irresponsibility, self-centeredness, or wickedness of heart can create a multitude of problems – for ourselves and for those around us.

And sometimes our decisions are just the result of foolish mistakes. No matter how much knowledge, wisdom, or godliness we have attained, we may still make bad choices and have to suffer the consequences of our actions. Often we wish that God would override our bad decisions, but even if we are faithful, godly individuals, we are not immune to earthly consequences.

But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care. He sees all our anxiety, stress, and despair and wants us to come to Him. He can graciously give us the wisdom to deal with whatever we may be facing, if we ask Him, and He can always make something good come out of a difficult and painful situation.

These challenging times may occur because of the influence of others or the ways of the world, but either way, as this verse so clearly illustrates, we have to take responsibility for our own foolishness and bad choices. Our hearts may rage against God for allowing them to happen, but when we know it to be the result of our own folly, we should humble ourselves, make amends to others if possible, and accept God’s love and forgiveness. He can get us through whatever challenges life may bring. God is good and His mercy is everlasting.

 Prayer

Dear God, we sometimes don’t understand why painful things in life occur, but help us to understand when they are the result of our own choices. How often we fail to thank you for the good things, but how quickly we are willing to blame you for the bad. May we learn to look to you for the grace to accept each situation and the wisdom and strength to get through it. Thank you for your love and patience with us. Amen

Nothing Is Impossible With God

Jesus replied, . . .”I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17: 20

I remember reading this verse as a child and it fascinated me – with phrases such as “moving mountains and faith as small as a seed.” It was completely beyond my understanding. Why would Jesus have used such an analogy? What image was He trying to plant in our minds and hearts?

Over time, His meaning became a bit more clear. Perhaps He is trying to tell us that God is greater than any of the problems we might face. Maybe He is trying to get us to focus our attention on God’s power rather than on our own limited resources. He wants us to understand that nothing is too hard for God – that He has the ability to do more than we could ever begin to imagine. And all we have to do is believe that He is who He says He is. That seems like such a small thing.

But it really isn’t, is it?  We all have these “mountains” in our lives – those things that are so big that they fill our lives and the spaces in our hearts with so much anxiety and despair that we don’t have room for anything else. Perhaps it is our concern for a family member who is facing a challenging situation, or a health or financial problem of our own. We keep holding on to our fear and worry and the more we grasp onto them tighter and tighter, the less faith, strength, and peace we seem to have. If only we could let go and leave it in God’s hands, trusting Him to work it out as He sees best.

If only we could have more faith. But often when we go to God with our “mountains”, we don’t seem to be able to completely let go, to fully trust in Him. We want a measure of control in the situation, or when He doesn’t answer as quickly as we desire, or in the way we want, an attitude of uncertainty or doubt may enter our thoughts, and we pull back from Him. We want to trust God, but we have trouble trusting Him completely. This doubt makes our faith and strength weak as we face these uncertain situations.

But if we can only leave our concerns with Him, ask Him to do what we can’t do ourselves, and have total dependence upon Him, then finally we will be free to find peace and let go of our fear and anxiety. We can let go because we believe and know in our hearts that He will never let go of us. Ultimately, having that trust and faith in Him gives us the opportunity to look up – and find hope.

Confidence in Him always gives us the freedom to receive whatever God has to give us. However He answers our prayers, we can know that it is always God’s best for us, even if it isn’t what we had desired or hoped for. And sometimes, our amazing God has something even greater in mind for us than we had for ourselves. We need to believe that sometimes He will move our “mountain” totally out of the way, and sometimes He moves “mountains” inside of us by changing our hearts and giving us the strength and peace to accept or to see things differently.

Nothing is impossible with God. If we can believe in His love for us, we can find unimaginable power in Him. May our prayers be full of confidence and trust in Him.

 Prayer

Dear God, open our minds and hearts to trust in you more fully. Help us to let go of those things that worry us and take up so much space in our minds and hearts. Help us to believe that you want what is best for us and through you, all things are possible. Amen

God’s Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119: 105;  have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you. Psalm 119: 11

God’s Word, Our Holy Bible. How we cherish its words, its stories, its truths, and the beautiful promises God has given us.

These two short verses are found in Psalm 119 and sum up well the importance God’s Holy Word should have for all of us. As so many of the psalms were, this one was written by David. It is the longest one with 176 verses, and interestingly, all of them, with the exception of only one or two, refer in some way or another to the Word of God. It is truly a psalm of praise for all of Scripture.

If you remember saying the pledge to the Bible at Vacation Bible School, I am sure you will recognize a part of that pledge in these two verses: “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word and will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”  

In reciting it, we are making a promise that we will honor God’s Word and make it an important priority in our lives.

At the time this verse was written, a lamp was a small bowl like container that was lit to provide just enough light to see each step in front of you. God’s Word is meant to do the same as it enlightens our way through this journey of life and it gives us just enough light to keep us from losing our way and becoming lost in the darkness of this world. It is our instructional guide for daily living and gives us the precepts of God’s truths.

In Deuteronomy 6:6, we are told: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” David understood the importance of keeping them in our hearts, for it is the heart that truly determines our motives and desires to seek and know God. And it is the heart with which God sees and judges who we are.

What a beautiful way to honor Scripture and its truths with these verses. May His Holy Word always be an important part of our lives; may we share it with others; and may it always light our path.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the wisdom and understanding you have given us to see your sovereignty and love throughout its pages. Thank you for the nourishment it has given our minds, bodies, and souls. May we share its hope with others, and may it be a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path, and may the words always be hidden in our hearts. Amen 

Spread Your Protection Over Them

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5: 11 – 12

On Saturday, we went to Cole’s 5th birthday party – a pool party with many of his friends from preschool. Cole was excited and all the kids had fun, but it was a little stressful for these grandparents. We were  trying to keep our eyes on all of them and on Miles, who was in the “big” pool with his friends. It didn’t help that one parent reminded me that more drownings of children take place during birthday parties in the summer than at any other time! Hhmmm.

I would watch the little ones in the 2 to 3 ft pool for awhile, and then go over and watch Miles. I began to worry about how Kel does this several times a week and how she is able to keep her eyes on both of them every second.

Finally, I realized she does it just like I did and all other parents do. We trust that they are good swimmers, that they are being watched by competent life guards, and that they will be safe – and we still watch them as much as we can. They seem so vulnerable to so many dangerous situations, but of course, we know it’s impossible to keep them away from all harm. And as they grow older and experience new things, it will become even more so.

But gratefully, we know there is One who can watch over them. We can ask God and know with confidence that He will keep them in His care and “surround them with His favor as with a shield.” What a comforting thought, and how grateful we can be for His presence.

This verse in Psalms reminds us that God wants to “favor” those who diligently and faithfully seek Him. What an unusual word to describe His divine blessing and protection upon our lives. Interestingly, it is used 56 times in Scripture to denote His generous, preferential treatment for those who put their trust in Him and look to His presence for refuge and safety.

Because of our devotion, love, and faith in Him, not only does He give His protection, but He desires to give us little things, good things, to bring contentment and peace. And because He holds us in “the shadow of His wings, David tells us that we have cause to “be glad, to sing for joy, and to rejoice in Him.”  How often we fail to do so and just take His love, grace, and protection for granted.

But as beautiful as this verse is with all its wonderful promises of His care, we can’t help but wonder why a loving God would sometimes withdraw His divine favor and let “bad” things happen to our children, or to any of us. None of us can answer that.

We’ve heard it said that God must have had a “higher calling” for those individuals, but that doesn’t give us the answer we desire or need. We understand that God’s ways are not our ways and we know that things happen according to His will and plan. That is the difficult part of faith – believing and trusting during the painful times.

But I once read, that we may not see God intervene during these times, but how many times does He intervene and save us and our children from harm that we don’t even know about! And if we aren’t devoted to trusting in Him, would His protection be as great?

Again, we have no answers, but we can try to be faithful and hold on to Him. We can either go through these painful circumstances with Him or without Him, but can you even imagine not having His love, comfort and strength? Believe and trust in Him, we will.

How grateful we can be for a loving God who holds us in His hands, and may we always respond in kind with a lifetime of loving, worshiping, and praising Him.

 Prayer

Our most gracious God, thank you for your divine favor, protection, and love upon our lives and upon those we hold dear. May we always be aware of your grace and rejoice in your most holy name. Thank you for all the ways that you bring joy into our lives and keep us in your care.  Amen

Fix These Words in Your Heart

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 11: 18 – 20

What a responsibility we parents and grandparents have to love, nurture, and teach our children. But do we teach them about what is truly important in our lives by our example and our words? Do we talk to them about God and His truths, or do we just assume that they will learn what they need to know from those we entrust them with for spiritual growth?

Children pick up pretty easily what we value most – whether it is hard work, being a success, the desire to have as much or more than our neighbors, seeking entertainment, spending time with our families, or our own selfish wants and needs.

But this verse reminds us that what they should see first and foremost, is our faithfulness to God. We are directed to take God’s words and tie them, bind them, teach them, talk about them, and write them down. We are to use whatever way we can to remind ourselves and our children of His love, care, and His truths about living a life of purpose and goodness.

As loving, Christian parents, we are to teach them that God will guide them in decisions regarding school, friends, family, and whatever problems they face. They need to have the confidence of knowing that God is with them at all times and that He cares about what they are going through.

In today’s world it seems even more important that we talk to our children about God and our faith. It must be so confusing to them as they hear discussions about issues that even their teachers, our leaders, other Christians, and ministers can’t agree on. They need to know where we stand and what we believe to be good and right. We need to listen to them, help them sort through their emotions and any confusion they may have, and help them form principles that they can rely on.

Their futures are going to be difficult enough without having to figure it out as they go along or having to depend on others for direction. They will need our strength and faith to guide them, but even more, they will need His love and grace ingrained in their hearts!

What a precious gift a child is. What wisdom they possess about the wonders and and mysteries of life. We can learn from them; we need to listen to them, talk to them, and help them to grow in God’s love and truth. What an awesome responsibility and wonderful privilege it is!

  Prayer

Dear God, thank you for the honor and privilege we have of teaching our children, grandchildren, and all other children around us about your truths. How humbling it is to think of the responsibility that brings. May we be the example of Christ they need in their lives. We pray that they will learn about your abiding love and presence and that it will always bring them strength and comfort. Amen

Do Something Today

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ . . .  Colossians 4: 2 – 3

We have friends, Dale and Gilda, who have devoted their lives to mission work and sharing the love of Christ with others. I love hearing their stories and this is one that Dale has shared with us about an experience he had in Korea many years ago. He gave me permission to share it with you, and I think you will be as moved by it as I was. What a blessing they are to so many with their faithfulness to God. And what a message this story – in his words – holds for all of us.

The work on these mission trips can be hard, but the personal rewards far outweigh anything we give. I think we receive far more than we are able to give those we serve. Their appreciation, love and sweet Christian Spirit puts me to shame, so I always come back more aware and far more blessed than anything that I was able to accomplish.

On a mission trip that I led to Korea in 1985 we saw thousands of people trust Christ, but the work and the dedication of the Christians in Korea made me feel so lacking. I worked with a Methodist church north of Soul, Korea. I preached in a prison where 250 inmates out of 300 trusted Christ. I wondered how could this be? These people had never heard the gospel and responded to Christ the first time it was shared with them. I thought, I must be pretty good at evangelism. Following the service in the prison the pastor of the church asked me if I wanted to go to prayer meeting with him the next morning at his church. I agreed, only to find out that it was at 6:00 AM. I am not an early morning person, but I decided it would be rude to back out of the invitation after it was given and I had accepted.

The next morning I went to that church expecting a few people to be gathered only to discover that the church was packed from wall to wall with people who had come to pray. Everyone prayed at the same time out loud and it sounded like a strange roaring noise as the people cried out their petitions to God in a language that I did not even know.  After about 45 minutes of continuous praying the pastor called everyone back to order and had a short challenge.  The pastor then declared that the church had gathered, prayed and sought the renewing of the Holy Spirit for the day and they were ready for the challenge: Now go into the world and do something today that will show the love of Jesus to others.

I asked the pastor, after we dismissed, how often did his church gather for this prayer and he informed me that they did it everyday except for Sunday morning and the church was always full. Now you tell me what was the difference in preaching in Korea and seeing thousands saved than preaching here?  I can assure you it had nothing to do with me or the men that I took on the mission trip. If the church in America had that type of commitment we would see great things happen as well. The Korean experience was one of the highlights of my ministry and I never went back to Korea. People asked me why I never returned and I told them that they did not need me. I told them that before long that country would be sending evangelists and missionaries to America.

Yes, I do some work, but the work that goes on before us impacts the lives far more than what we share. I have just been blessed to see it all in action. 

What a reminder that this too is our calling and mission for Christ: On this day,“Do something that will show the love of Jesus to others.” 

Prayer

Dear Lord, what strength, love, and hope we can find in you. May we be more faithful in prayer and service to you by sharing your love with others. We thank you for the ministry that Dale, Gilda, and all others do in your name and we ask you to bless their work and their lives. Amen

Keep in Step With the Spirit

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5: 25 – 26

Some Scripture passages really make us stop and think, don’t they? This one certainly does because none of us want to be seen as conceited, envious, or as someone who provokes others. We all have this image in our minds of who we are, and we even think we know how others see us. But do we really?

Have you ever considered whether someone might perceive you as being arrogant, excessively proud of yourself, and vain? What a horrible thought – to think someone might think that we think so highly of ourselves! Surely, we would be seen as much more humble, for we certainly know people who have this characteristic and it’s not one we admire.

Have you ever thought of yourself as an envious or jealous person? Do you covet what others have and sometimes find yourselves envious of their lives? Can you imagine yourself becoming bitter or resentful toward someone else because their lifestyle is much different from your own? Or do you think that you would knowingly provoke others to anger or resentment because of your jealousy and unhappiness?

These are tough questions to consider, aren’t they? When we truly examine ourselves, we may have to admit that sometimes we don’t like what we see. We may even find that we have become so focused on ourselves, on what we want, and on who we want to appear to be, that we don’t even realize who we have become.

What painful thoughts, for we know God has commanded us first and foremost to love Him, and then secondly, to love our neighbor. Our goal as Christians is to become more Christ-like and to do so, we must love Him with our entire being, and ask Him to fill our hearts with His Spirit to help us become the individuals He would have us be. We should desire to be seen in His eyes as humble and always loving and kind to others.

In this verse, Paul is writing to the new believers in Galatia and reminding them to “keep in step with the “Spirit” by living respectful and reverent lives free of prideful conceit and envy. We, too, need this reminder for we are all capable of having grand thoughts about ourselves – even thinking that we might be better than those around us, or that we deserve more than they do.

This is our human nature, and even as Christians, we can sometimes be more interested in seeking recognition for ourselves rather than for God. But only He deserves that place of honor. May we walk with His Spirit and let Him fill our hearts with humility, compassion, and love for others.

Prayer

Dear God, forgive us for the times that we have, or may become prideful, and take our eyes off of you and what you desire us to be. May we trust in your Spirit to guide us to live our lives in  a way that will bring honor and glory to you. Amen

God’s Secret Wisdom

We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. . . However, as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him ” 1 Corinthians 2: 7, 9

I can’t stop thinking about my recent visit with a family member in a nursing home. While I was there, I went with her to hear a church choir sing some of those favorite old hymns we all love. I had done this so many times with my own mother for years, and it brought back sweet memories of her by my side as she smiled and sang along.

There is just something so endearing about sitting with these dear souls – some of whom may not even recognize their loved one’s faces or be able to speak coherently, but they can surely remember and quietly sing every word of these beloved old hymns. Such power music has and what emotions and memories it can bring to mind.

This recent experience was no different. The choir sang beautifully, and as I sat and looked at each of those weary and worn faces who have seen so much of life, I couldn’t help but feel much compassion for them and their circumstances. But something else touched my heart even more.

It was the sweetest sight to see several elderly couples sitting so closely together, holding each other’s hands. One was the patient – obviously stricken by a stroke, Alzheimer’s, or some terminal illness – and the other was the devoted, loving spouse. How tenderly the spouses stroked their dear ones’ hands and lovingly “took them in”, as if they were remembering every detail of their faces and their smiles before they had become ravished by illness and time.

I wiped away the tears as I saw the longing in their eyes and imagined their thoughts – “if only we could have one more day, doing all the normal things we always did, waking up and going to bed together, sharing meals, laughing, talking, and enjoying each other’s company.” I understood what it would mean to them and how precious that gift would be.

How we take those moments, those days, those times for granted. I promised myself I never would when Bob was diagnosed with heart failure and cardiomyopathy so many years ago, but how easily we can become lulled into thinking that the life we share with those we love will go on, uninterrupted and secure.

Sometimes it is so difficult to understand the things of life – the way we think, the way God thinks, and how it all fits together. I know we will understand someday. God will reveal all the mystery, His secret wisdom, and His plan for not only our lives, but for how all life is interwoven to fit His eternal plan. But for now, I wonder and question.

It can all be so complicated sometimes, especially the concept of time and what it means to us. When we are younger, it seems to move so slowly and we feel as if we have a lifetime ahead of us. But as we get older, we realize how quickly life passes by and how valuable and precious the gift of time is.

I wonder what God had in mind when He created time and gave us the emotions to love and care about each other. What was He thinking when He created the distances and circumstances that would separate us? And why did He give us these deep sentimental feelings of sadness and regret over those separations?

I wonder what God’s wisdom is concerning these things. Is it to make us appreciate the times we do have? Is it because He wants us to find joy in Him and depend upon Him more than upon others? Or is it because it will make heaven and eternity that much sweeter as we have infinite time together?

In His divine providence, we know that our Creator has a purpose for all things and He has one for this thing called “time” that He instituted on earth. He has already filled our lives with abundant blessings and joy, and we know He has so much more planned for us – something that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived”.

We may never understand His secret divine wisdom, but we can believe there is more to come. We can trust in Him and in His promise of eternal life.

 Prayer

Dear God, there are so many things we don’t understand about life. But we know that you in your divine sovereignty have a plan for us and for all mankind. We are so grateful for the people you have placed in our lives and for your love and grace. We thank you for the gift of your Son and your promise of eternal life.  Amen

Thy God, My God

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1: 16

Beautiful words, and ones you may remember from the OT book of Ruth – especially the King James version which is often recited at weddings: Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God.”  

Ruth’s story conveys one of the strongest and most beautiful expressions of faith and faithfulness in all of Scripture. 

There was a famine in Israel so severe that a Hebrew named Elimelech took his wife Naomi, and 2 sons to live in the nearby country of Moab. Elimelech soon died and his sons married Moabite women named Ruth and Orpah. After a few years, the 2 sons died also, leaving the 3 widows in Moab.

After their deaths, when Naomi had heard that the famine was over, she made plans to return to her family in Israel. As she set out on foot with Ruth and Orpah, she stopped and implored her daughter-in-laws to return to their own families, to their own gods, and to find another husband to sustain them. The two young women wept and promised to remain with her.

But when Naomi tried to persuade them one last time, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye and left for her own native land and family. Naomi begged Ruth to do the same, but Ruth clung to her in faithfulness and responded with these beautiful words from Ruth 1: 16.

Naomi returned to Bethlehem in shame – financially, emotionally, and physically drained – with nothing, but her loving daughter-in-law. Yet, both women were graciously welcomed by the family, and Ruth began to consider how she could best take care of their needs. She loved Naomi and she had learned to love her God, and with faith, she believed He would care for them. With no money or husband, Ruth had no choice but to go into the fields to gather whatever grain she could find.  (Some field owners would let the poor “glean” the fields or pick up what remained behind the harvesters.)

One land owner, named Boaz, took notice of Ruth and asked if anyone knew who she was. When he found out that it was the Moabitess who had returned with Naomi, he was deeply moved by her humility and devotion. He told Ruth to stay in his fields with his servant girls and that his workers would be kind to her and leave plenty of grain for her to pick. She bowed down before him and asked why he would do such a thing for a foreigner.

Boaz replied that he had been told of her kindness to her mother-in-law and how she had left her own family to live with Naomi’s. And then he said these kind words to her, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”  (Ruth 2: 12)

Ruth then returned to tell Naomi about this generous and kind landowner. Naomi was overjoyed to learn that it was Boaz, a relative of her late husband. According to the law and custom, this meant that Boaz could openly become their “kinsman redeemer” and take Naomi and Ruth into his care, as well as free them from their financial debt.

Boaz graciously and gratefully took the opportunity to buy them out of debt and take Ruth as his wife. They married and had a son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse, and grandfather of King David.

For so long, Naomi had been overwhelmed with grief, bitterness, and despair. But with time, she began to understand the sacrifice and love her daughter-in-law had given. But even more, she recognized the blessings and opportunities God had provided. Through Boaz becoming their kinsman redeemer, He was not only ensuring that their family line and inheritance would be restored, but He was also giving Ruth the opportunity to have a loving family.

What a wonderful example of God’s sovereignty and how He will often send individuals into our lives to get us through the difficult times. He will provide His loving care when we need Him most and what miraculous ways He works out our situations if we will be patient and trusting.

This beautiful story has also been called the foreshadowing of an event to come. For we, too, have had a “kinsman redeemer” to pay our debt, and He did so on the cross. Jesus Christ redeemed us with His saving grace, and just as He did for Ruth and Naomi, He will provide His loving care.    

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for the beautiful stories in your Word to teach us about your love and grace. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the cross to redeem us and to give us the gift of eternal life. Amen

A Happy Heart

 A happy heart makes the face cheerful. Proverbs 15:13

Happy Birthday to our little guy, Cole! Today he is 5! In fact, last night, he wanted us to to go with him and his family to his favorite restaurant to celebrate the last day he will ever be 4!

Honestly, this child can find something to celebrate every single day! He is always so happy and content and lives with the expectation that each and every day is going to bring new adventures! And for him, it does! Even as he grows and changes, we can’t imagine his spirit being any differently. Being happy seems to define who he is and just being around him makes the rest of us happy too!

Don’t we all long for that contented state of being? How many times do we hear someone say, “I’m just not happy“, or “All I ever wanted was to be happy, and I have finally realized that I never will be”. It saddens us to hear those words, and we so much want more for these individuals.

It’s almost as if we think everyone should be entitled to be happy in this life, and when they aren’t, we understand why they might become bitter. We search for “this thing” relentlessly for ourselves and for those we care about. We tend to think our happiness depends on our circumstances, and if we can change them and make them better, then we think happiness will come. Sadly, some wait years or even a lifetime for it to come their way, and it never does. What time, energy, and money we waste on pursuing this dream.

But have you ever noticed that when we are trying the hardest to feel fulfilled, to find happiness and contentment, it’s rare that we ever do? It’s not something we can obtain by finding it like a pot of gold. We have to look within ourselves.

The fact is that nothing or no one can make us truly happy if we aren’t happy deep down in our own souls. If we haven’t found some meaning and purpose in life to give us reason to wake up each day, we probably won’t find it anywhere else. We need to feel value and worth within ourselves by loving others and being committed to something beyond our own pleasure and happiness. Only God can truly fill that need with His presence in our lives. Happiness may sometimes depend on our circumstances, but joy depends on our relationship with Him. What peace and contentment a life with Him can bring.

What blessings He gives! I am so grateful for the times with family to celebrate special occasions such as Cole’s birthday! God wants our hearts to be happy, our faces to hold smiles, and for us to feel much joy and cheer. But how often we become disappointed with the moments in life that don’t go our way instead of focusing on the blessings we have before us.

May we choose to be happy on this day. May we embrace the beauty and goodness around us even in the midst of the turmoil and anxiety of life, and let happiness fill our hearts. May we look to our amazing God and let Him fill us with His love and grace.

 Prayer

Dear God, thank you for the special moments in life with all the joy they hold. May we find meaning and purpose in you instead of the things around us and let you fill our hearts with contentment and peace. May we remember to appreciate today and all the blessings it brings. Amen

If God Withdrew His Spirit

If it were his (God’s) intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust. Job 34: 14 – 15

Do you ever think about the mysteries of our world and how amazing it is that things just work the way they are supposed to when they are supposed to? Do you ever wonder to yourself how amazing it is that the sun continues to rise and set each day and the stars and moon continue to light up the night sky? And how incredible is it that our earth and other planets continue their evolution around the sun and we always have enough air to breathe? Isn’t it wonderful how the rains fall to replenish the earth and crops continue to grow and bear fruit?

Our God is in control of the heavens and the earth. I don’t think any Scripture verse can express God’s sovereignty over our lives any more than this one can with this one statement, “If God withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish.”

This verse comes from the book of Job, in which he questions God about his sorrows and pain. Job finally comes to the conclusion that God is all knowing, all powerful, and all seeing. He alone keeps the earth and heavens on course and He alone holds our fate in His hands.

If God for some reason chose to set His mind to destroy us, nothing could hinder Him. There would be entire ruin and destruction for all mankind. Or if He examined the evil ways of man and determined that He would deal with us according to His justice and what we deserve, none of us would be left standing before Him.

But if this were the case, if God had ever perceived of these thoughts, we would have all perished long ago. Our spirits and souls are placed in us by God. He has breathed life into us and He can just as easily take it away and we would perish.

Yet, God, in His love for us and in His desire for us to live and come to Him, keeps our world turning. This verse and these thoughts shouldn’t fill us with fear, but instead we should receive hope and comfort. The fact that our world still operates according to His plans, shows His merciful nature. He loves us and wants us to come to Him. He has not chosen to withdraw His spirit and the breath within us. He longs to give us life and the beauty of His creations. To Him alone belongs all honor, glory, and praise.

 Prayer

Dear God, thank you for the gift of life and for our amazing, beautiful world. We know that we don’t deserve your unconditional love and all the glory you display in creation and all the blessings of life, but may our hearts always be full of gratitude for the grace that you show us each and every day. Amen

The Power of Prayer

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise . . . The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5: 13, 16

Prayer. Is it something you do each night before you fall asleep to thank God for the blessings of the day and to ask Him to continue to care for your loved ones? Or do you pray in the early morning hours before you begin your day to ask His protection and blessings upon those you love? Or perhaps it is something you do throughout the day as you are reminded of the beauty of His creation or of His goodness to us, and you want to give Him praise. Or maybe your heart has been so burdened with a concern in your life that you lift your prayers up all during the day, and even when you awake at night, to ask God to be with you, or with someone you hold dear.

Amazingly, some of you could answer yes to all of the above.  You are in constant communication with God and you have the confidence of knowing He hears and that He cares.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we all pray, but in the deepest places in our hearts, we may doubt that God has heard or that He cares enough to answer. We may even wonder if our prayers make a difference, or if they could really change the hand of God. We may even wonder if we are worthy of praying to such an almighty God at all, and we may hold our despair inside.

These are questions that even the most devout and faithful Christians struggle with. But in James 5, we are assured that our prayers which are lifted up in faith will be heard and that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

How could any of us be considered righteous? We certainly don’t look at ourselves in this light, but gratefully, our amazing God does. Righteousness is defined as ‘the state of moral perfection”, and the New Testament tells us that our faith can be proclaimed righteous by accepting Christ. He doesn’t make us righteous, but God chooses to see us as such. Because of our faith in Him, He chose to forgive us and to see us as having the righteousness of His Son. His grace proclaims us worthy of having a relationship with Him.

Paul challenges us in Romans 16: 19 to go even further and become what God sees. He calls us to live the righteous life – not the perfect life, but one in which we are trying to live by God’s truths and principles.

This is God’s desire for us – that we have a prayer life focused on fellowship with Him and for all occasions – not just to ask for healing, strength, or guidance, but even in times when our hearts are happy and content. For when we are filled with joy and gratitude, and we pray, we have His promise that He will even multiply our power to be joyful! What an incredible concept that God desires to give us His love and grace in even greater measure than what we ask for.

We must believe and trust in Him and know that His answers may not always come in the way we desire or hope, but they will always come with His strength and mercy to get us through. God wants our genuine, authentic selves. He wants us to be real and honest with Him, and tell Him of our struggles and failures to be faithful to Him. He wants more for us than just calling on Him in our times of need and deepest despair. He longs to give us His mercy, grace, love, and power. What an amazing God who always wants more for us and desires to give us the best of what He has to give.

The power of our prayers unleashes the power to bring about change. Prayer can do anything God can do. We can believe that God hears, that our prayers have power, and that sometimes they can make a difference.

Yes, at other times, the answer may be “No”, or even, “Wait”, but we can trust that God will respond with what He thinks is best and what is according to His will for our lives. He wants us to come before Him and He will give us the comfort, peace, and strength to accept whatever life brings. And if we don’t go to Him, we may never know what power there is in prayer!

Have you heard this expression? “Much prayer, much power; a little prayer, a little power; no prayer, no power.”  

In Him, there is power in His Word, in His promises, in His faithfulness, and in His love. We may not deserve the title of “righteousness, but we are His, He loves us, and He will always hear our prayers.

 Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we know you hear our prayers and that you may not answer them in the way we wish, but we know we can trust that you understand our concerns and our needs. Thank you for the ease in which we can go before your throne of grace with our prayers and for the faith to believe in you. Amen

The Compassion of a Father

Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13

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Happy Father’s Day to all of our fathers, grandfathers, and to all the men in our lives who have given us their love, compassion, and guidance! How blessed we have been by their presence and influence. And Happy Father’s Day to all those other special fathers who love and cherish their children, such as our sons, son-in-laws, brothers, other relatives, and friends.

It is difficult sometimes to find just the right words with the heartfelt sentiments we wish to express, isn’t it? I think we all feel that way when we attempt to honor these beloved men whom we call, or have called, Dad. The words are in our hearts, but so much emotion comes into play that words simply seem inadequate to describe our feelings.

As we have searched for just the right card, poem, song, or quote to get our own personal message across to the father or loved ones we have been blessed to have in our lives, or to honor the memory of  the ones we have lost, we realize how true this is. We love each one for their own uniqueness and goodness. Each has his our own set of strengths. We realize there has been only one perfect Father, but our own fathers have surely displayed so many qualities that we admire and respect.

This was one of the most beautiful messages I found about the gift of a father:

“One of the greatest gifts I ever had came from God. I called him Dad, and when I think of him, I think of Patience. Trust. Time. Love. Pride. Joy.”  

What a beautiful definition of what every father would aspire to be. We could easily add other descriptive words such as: Loving. Kind. Supportive. Protective. Reassuring. Humorous. Responsible. A strong man with a tender heart that is sensitive to others and puts his children’s interests before his own. A father believes in his child and his potential. He offers guidance, discipline, stability, and security. A father is committed to his family and to God. 

There is only One who can be all these things to His children. Our ultimate example of a loving Father is found in the essence of God.”Because we are a child of God He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4: 6)

How blessed we are to call Him our heavenly Father, the One who guides us, loves us, comforts us, and walks with us through life. What compassion and care He gives. How grateful we can be to know that He holds us in His hands and that we can rest in His care.

Today we honor Him for giving us these men in our lives whom we hold dear. And we honor and remember them with love and gratitude.

On this day, I remember my own father with much love. I only had him in my life for a short time, but his presence has remained with me for all these years. I can still see his face and hear his voice, and I remember his strength, wisdom, and the many lessons he taught me.

I honor Bob and feel so blessed to have had the privilege and joy of watching him be the most wonderful father to our children, and for the last 7 and a half years, the most amazing granddad. He has brought so much love, compassion, and laughter into our home and into our lives.

I honor our son-in-law Drue, who is the most devoted husband and father, and we can’t imagine anyone being a more loving and wonderful dad to our grandsons, Miles and Cole. (The picture above is one of my favorite, as he walks with his sons. I don’t think there is a sweeter one – than of a loving father holding his children’s hands.)

I honor my brothers – two have passed away – and one remains. What memories I have of our times together and how grateful I am for the blessing of having them in my life. I am so grateful for my brother, Ralph, and what he has meant to me and what he brings to my life.

Billy Graham once said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

 Fathers, we recognize what a gift you are, and have been, to us and to so many others! Happy Father’s Day!

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving Father, we give you praise for your presence in our lives and for the gift of life and family. Thank you for the special men you have placed in our lives and for all the ways they have shown us their love and care. Amen

The Works of His Hands

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.  Psalm 104:24 – 25 

We had eagerly anticipated the call and couldn’t wait to hear what the boys would say about their trip to Sea World! Their mom and dad had sent many pictures and texts about their adventures over the last few days, but nothing could compare with hearing it in their own words. I think Cole summed it up best when he said, “In all the world, the sea creatures are the most amazing!” But Miles said it just as well with his simple response: “It was awesome!”  

I sometimes forget to be in awe of all of God’s wondrous creations! Their words reminded me once again. When we think of our world with all its magnificent beauty and all the incredible wonders to be found, it is almost incomprehensible. And is there anything more extraordinary and mysterious than “the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number.” With what wisdom and power He made them – each with their own unique characteristics and means of protection and survival.

Both the boys  named a long list of different species of fish and other sea creatures to see if we had heard of them and of course, they had to tell us all about each one. They were so in awe of them all! And how we enjoyed  hearing their stories.

They loved how the dolphins were so cute and looked so happy – almost as if they were smiling – and they were so excited to pat them. They touched manta rays and thought they felt soft and like velvet. They were fascinated by the Orca whale show – how the trainers communicated with the whales through hand signals and how the whales responded to their commands. They saw a sea turtle movie about all the dangers they face and thought it was amazing that they can survive. But nothing seemed to capture their imagination and excitement quite like the sea lion that was sleeping and when he was awakened by another, it  made him mad and they started wrestling! Oh, to have the enthusiasm of a child for God’s creations.

Such amazing beings with all their uniqueness created and sustained by our amazing God! How grateful we are that the boys got to experience and enjoy the “works of His hands”.

If our God can create and have dominion over all of these, we can only imagine what He can do for us. What confidence and hope we can have that He will sustain us with His grace. May we give Him our most reverent praise, love, and gratitude.

Prayer

Dear God, with what wisdom, power, and glory you created our world and with what love and care you sustain it. May we never take its beauty and mystery for granted; nor the gift of life itself. We give you all honor and praise. Amen   

We Reap What We Sow

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6: 7 – 9

It’s time for “a Cole garden” update! (First described in the May 12th entry: God Gives Us Food.)  Several of you have written to ask if it is growing, and I am pleased to report that it is going well! We did have one little problem, but thankfully, it all worked out.

Two days after we planted the seeds, they had a torrential rain in their area over a short period of time. We had planted the corn along the edges and it washed away those seeds, but he still has the others he chose to plant – the watermelon, cucumbers, red pepper, and cilantro (he wanted to plant for his dad), and they are growing and doing well!

Cole is so proud of his first garden and has enjoyed watering and checking on it each morning. He still doesn’t have any sign of “fruit” on the vines, but he knows it will be coming soon! And to think that I had my doubts! I should have remembered God’s promise that what we sow, we reap! The harvest will come!

Sowing and reaping. It’s a law of nature and a law of God’s truth in every aspect of our lives. What goes around comes around. Good gives rise to good, and evil to evil. Our words and deeds result in consequences.

Sometimes it can be a difficult lesson to learn, but one that is so true! What we sow today, we may reap tomorrow. It can certainly give us reason to pause and reflect on our own lives.

Are we sowing seeds to please God, to show our trust in Him, and planting them in others, or are we sowing seeds that would displease Him? We know that Scripture tells us that this concept will always apply in our spiritual lives – in our character, in our relationship with God, and in our relationship with one another. It makes up the moral fabric of who we are and who God wants us to be.

His desire is that we sow seeds in our own hearts that will produce a strong faith in Him. But He also expects us to do more. Each of us has the chance to sow goodness into the lives of others. We can offer help in times of need, share our blessings, give them our love and understanding, graciously show kindness and mercy, and above all, we can give them the hope we have found in Christ. And when we do, we will “reap” the rewards – not necessarily in terms of wealth, but in the things that truly matter, such as loving relationships with family and friends, satisfaction and pride in our accomplishments, contentment and peace, and the joy of knowing we have a God who loves and cares.

In this verse, Paul is also reminding us of this basic truth: We shouldn’t be deceived into thinking we can dishonor God by ignoring Him and His principles for our lives. We sometimes think we can do whatever we please and God won’t really notice or care. But nothing is hidden from God. Turning our backs on Him in such an obvious and deliberate way “mocks” who He is and all He has done for us. When we do so, we can expect to “reap” negative consequences.

Often we may even question the “fruit” that comes to those who haven’t earned it, or we may ask why our own wasn’t greater – especially after we thought we had “sown” well and had done our best to obey God.

Paul thought it important to remind us not to become weary or discouraged in following Christ. The harvest may not come in the way or at the time we had hoped or expected. We may have to wait for months, years, or even unto eternity. But we can be assured that our “fruit” will come.

God may have another plan such as strengthening our faith to refine our character or to teach us patience, but we need to place our trust and confidence in Him, and be patient. God desires our best and if we give it to Him, He will reward our faithfulness to Him. The harvest will come!

Prayer

Dear God, may we sow good seeds in our lives as we love and honor you, our families, and those around us. Help us to lead lives of integrity, faithfulness, and trust in you. Amen

The Love of a Friend

A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17

We all need friends and the more the better! In this social net-working world we live in, many people have hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. It seems for many individuals, the more they have, the more accepted and connected they feel. But if that’s the case, why are there so many articles and survey results by the experts that tell us that more and more people are feeling lonelier, more isolated, and more disconnected than ever before? Could the reason be because we seem to have less and less human contact with our friends, family members, and neighbors?

Perhaps we need those opportunities to spend time with them face to face and reconnect with a pat, a handshake, or a hug! A few words written quickly on a page, sometimes for the whole world to see, just don’t seem to have the same effect as actually being with friends, talking about our lives, knowing that they are listening, and that they care!

Having a close friend relationship is a rare treasure these days. The experts tell us that texting, tweeting, or Facebook messaging can provide the illusion of companionship, but there can be no real intimacy or deep connection of the heart.

One recent poll found that 1 in 4 people admitted to having no one in their lives that they could talk to or confide in about their problems. And it was found that the majority of those who do have friends confessed to having only 1 or 2 that they felt close enough to turn to in times of need or that they could trust. And most responded that they only had 3 or 4 people in their lives they could even call their friends.

In this busy, fast-paced world we live in, forming deep friendships is much more difficult than it used to be. Friendships need nurturing with time and attention. We may need to help carry a friend’s burden or be there when they need us. And for this reason alone, some individuals have difficulty making and keeping friends. Because of their fear and vulnerability, they may be concerned that these friends will expect too much or take advantage of them, or even betray their trust.

But in order to have a friend, we need to be a friend. With no investment in a relationship, we can expect no return. We need to be generous in our encouragement, love, and praise to these special people in our lives. They deserve our respect and appreciation.

When God created us, He didn’t intend for us to face the struggles and stresses of life by ourselves. He didn’t design us for isolation. We need friends to walk with us through the challenges and painful circumstances of life. We need their encouragement to remind us of God’s goodness and faithfulness. We need them to share our joys and sorrows, and what comfort it brings to know that they love us and care about what we are going through.

We all need friends. God honors true friendship and devotion to another. There is no gift greater than the loyalty and love of a good friend, someone to be there when we need them, to laugh and cry with, and to share the wonderful experiences of life. We need to honor the friends we have, hold on to them and cherish the times we have together.

What a blessing mine are to me! I am so grateful for the dear ones I have and pray I can always be worthy of their love and friendship. 

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for special friendships and what they bring to our lives. Help us to be a better friend to all those we come in contact with, for it is your command that we should love others. Amen      

Press On Toward the Prize

I press on toward the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 14

We all do love to be a winner, don’t we? No matter how small the prize, we like knowing we can win at something! And sometimes, we don’t even actually have to win;  it can just be the  “idea”  or thought of winning which can make us smile!

We just returned from the practice round of the US Open in Pinehurst and Bob had his picture taken in front of the 2014 trophy. He posted it on Facebook with these words: “Never thought I would hold the US Open Trophy! I think my game is coming around!”  

You wouldn’t believe how many likes and comments he has gotten from fellow golfers and friends who could relate to his excitement! At some point, I’m sure we’ve all had the thought, “I wish I could be, or could have been, a  great ______. ”   How easy it is to fill in the blank!

We have read and seen stories about the determination and discipline it has taken for many successful and well-known individuals to become who they are. For many, it meant a lifetime of sacrifice and hard work. They had to stay focused on their goal and not let anything steer them off course. Many admit that they had to seek God’s guidance and strength as they faced challenges and obstacles in their path, and it wasn’t always easy to find their way.

It seems some individuals have been destined for “bigger things” more than others, but we can all strive to be the best we can be wherever we find ourselves in life. We’ve had our goals and our dreams, and some have accomplished “great things” – maybe not in terms of being a golf champion or a famous musician, but in terms of being a wonderful parent, teacher, coach, neighbor, co-worker, friend, or whatever field you have made contributions to people’s lives. Many of you have done wonderful things as servants of Christ who have shared His love with others. We can each feel as if we have made a difference in someone’s life in some way.

As Christians, we have another goal. We have all been called to a lifelong goal of being the best we can be for God. We know it will take much faith, humility, commitment, motivation, and perseverance. And with much hope of what lies ahead, we will “press on” as we seek to know Him more and learn to trust in His care. We will strive to have a life filled with devotion to Jesus Christ and loving others.

As we face challenges and painful situations, we may want to give up, but hopefully,we know that with His strength and the assurance of His grace, we can “press onward”. As we trust Him more, we will experience His loving presence, peace, and joy. And when we can finally walk boldly with Him, we will have the confidence of knowing that nothing can ever separate us from His love and grace, and that a far greater “prize” awaits us – the gift of eternal life with Him.

Prayer

Dear God, our Creator and Sustainer of life, we thank you for loving us and calling us your own. May we love, honor, and glorify your most holy name as we strive to be the individuals you would have us be. We thank you for the gift of life and the promise of eternal life to come. Amen

Believing in the Son of God

Then the Jews demanded of him (Jesus), “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in 3 days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” John 2: 19 – 22

Some things just seem too good to be true, don’t they? They are so difficult for us to understand and believe.

We know the Gospel of Jesus Christ must have been so for the people of His day, for Scripture tells us that so many saw His power and His divinity and still did not believe. Not even His brothers recognized Him as the Messiah until after His resurrection. And they and His disciples saw His miracles and heard his teachings, and yet they could not fully comprehend that this man was the true Son of God. They had to personally see Jesus ascend into heaven to fully grasp the fullness of His divinity.

It is difficult to change beliefs that are ingrained in us, or believe a view we have never heard before. And Jesus was so different from what the people had perceived the Messiah would be.

Acts 17: 11 states: “Truth requires a willingness to hear, and has nothing to fear from investigation.”  So many still question who this Jesus is. They find it difficult to even begin to believe in this Messiah they have never seen nor heard, and they really don’t know where or how to find Him. If only they would seek Him in God’s Word and ask God to open their hearts to Him.

How grateful we can be that we know this Savior and believe in Him. We have our own stories of what He has done in our lives. We have read the Old Testament about the promise of a Messiah, the Gospels which tell about His life, and many other books in the New Testament which tell of His saving grace and of what He has to offer the world. We know His promises and His truths. And the most amazing part of all, is that we know He lives in us.

In this verse from John, Jesus is planting a seed in the disciples’ minds that He knows they will recall after His death and resurrection.

We think of Jesus dying on the cross, but Jesus, the Son of God, is very much alive. He was raised up in human form from the dead in 3 days. His human body was glorified, able to appear inside locked rooms or on a mountaintop in Galilee before His disciples. Then after 40 days, He ascended into heaven and returned to His Father.

Only God is able to resurrect life, and He will do the same for us if we believe in Him. He will resurrect our bodies and bring our new ones back to life to live eternally with Him. It seems incomprehensible. But God keeps His promises and Christ has shown us the way to believe in His power and in His glory. How we want others to know that love and grace.

Beth Moore writes in her book, Jesus the One and Only: “Christ’s willingness to continue to draw us to belief totally astounds me. . . Unlike His first disciples, you and I have never looked upon Christ’s touchable hands and feet. At first, it may seem the disciples had such an advantage over us. After all, they saw the risen Christ with their own eyes. Christ, however, announced that we are the ones with a special advantage. Of us, Jesus proclaimed, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ (John 2o: 29)  We who believe, yet have never seen, are blessed because it is faith that pleases Him so. We have often seen His hands through constant provision and glorious intervention. We have often seen His feet as He’s gone before us. Surely we have beheld the hands and feet of Christ with eyes of faith. . . Behold Him as the Son of God and believe.”

  Prayer

Dear God, your ways are so great and unfathomable to us. Increase our faith, and open our eyes to your truths. Thank you for the promise of eternal life and for your Son who made it all possible. In your most holy name. Amen

May Our Words and Thoughts Be Pleasing to God

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19: 14

Some “food for thought” for us today! What is the nicest thing anyone has said to you recently? What is the most hurtful thing someone has said? Now let’s turn it around and think about the most and least kind thing we have said to someone! Hhmm! Makes us think, doesn’t it?

If only we could  remember the power that our words can have – to bring joy, comfort, peace, assurance, praise, and to show love and appreciation – but also how they can bring such heartache and pain.

The psalmist, David, understood their power and he asked God in this beautiful verse to help us measure our words before we speak. His desire was that every single word he said and every thought he had would be pleasing to Him.

What a humbling thought to know that we can please God and show Him our love and devotion with such a simple act as having good thoughts and using our words graciously. But it is not always that simple. Many of us struggle with doing so.

Jesus warns us in Scripture that our hearts will be held accountable for whatever words we speak and what thoughts we have before we speak. Our words can have the potential to create so many problems and cause pain to others, and even to ourselves. We may think we can hide the motives behind them, and sometimes we may not even recognize the “darkness” we hold in our own hearts. But, we especially think we can hide it all from God.

But our God sees and He knows. We need to recognize that the words and the “truth” behind those words first reside in our hearts as our intent and our deepest thoughts. Every word that is unproductive, unfruitful, and unkind comes from the heart. Every sarcastic comment, every personal attack against others, every discriminating joke, every unfounded criticism, and every profanity lies somewhere deep within.

Our words can be so powerful because some situation or someone can give them power that perhaps we never even intended for them to have. But if someone perceives them as hurtful, the damage is done. Perception is reality. Our words have an impact whether we realize it or not. We need His Spirit to help us control these unpleasant thoughts and words. We need His strength and His love to soften our hearts and temper our words. May they be not only acceptable to Him, but always kind and beneficial to others.

Amazingly, the word “heart” is found in Scripture over 900 times and it can refer to the mind, the emotions, the will, or our inner selves. It can even refer to a person as a whole. What we do is a product of the heart and what we say is evidence of what lies within. The measure of our thoughts and our words will show the true indication of God’s grace and righteousness in us.

May we always remember to make “the words and the meditation of our hearts” pleasing to Him. May He find joy in all we say and do, and may others see Him in us.

 Prayer

 Dear God, you know us better than we know ourselves. Help us to look within our hearts and see what might lie hidden underneath our own inner inspection. Help us to push aside those thoughts we know would be displeasing to you and may our words always be filled with your love and grace. Amen

Have You Heard the Good News?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40: 28

We all love receiving good news, don’t we? And on this beautiful Sunday morning, I have some to share with you!

Just as we often do with others when we have some news to tell, this verse from Isaiah 40  begins with the same words we might use: “Do you not know? Have you not heard?”

Then what reassuring news Isaiah had to give: “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”  

What a message of hope and comfort. What a reminder of the strength and assurance He had to give to those in Isaiah’s day, as well as, to us in our present day.

We know from experience how difficult it is to handle all of life’s challenges and difficulties on our own. No matter how strong we may seem, how much faith we believe we have, or how many people we have loving and supporting us, sometimes we need more.

We can all become so weak and discouraged from time to time, and we begin to lose hope. We need God’s divine love and strength to hold on to and to carry us through. He understands what we are going through and He cares about our pain. He longs for us to depend on Him and trust in His most loving name. Hurting hearts need comforting words and these tender words convey His deepest love for us.

The prophet, Isaiah, also understood that His people needed a message of hope and comfort, especially after he has just spoken to them about God’s coming judgment on them because of their indifference to Him and His Word (Isaiah 39). He wanted them to understand and know that if they called out to God with faith in Him, He would be with them. Even in the darkest of times, our loving God wants us to know that if we are faithful to Him, He will always be near, providing His presence, power, and strength for us. What reassurance and hope his words gave to them. And what a comfort they can be for us.

We don’t know what God has planned for us, for our country, and for our world, but we do know that He will be with us if we trust in Him. For “our everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth” who has revealed Himself through the Bible and in the person and work of Jesus Christ has made it very clear that we can either experience the comfort and hope He has to give, or we can live in hopelessness and despair without Him.

For in Him lies our hope and confidence for tomorrow and for every day to come. “He doesn’t grow tired or weary” of hearing our prayers – our concerns and cares – and He gives us strength.

What infinite and divine wisdom and understanding He has, as He gives us exactly what we need at the time we need it most. He is worthy of our praise and honor. May we share His good news to all those who haven’t heard and glorify His name always.

Prayer

 Our most gracious and loving God, we thank you for the comfort and hope only you can give. Thank you for hearing our prayers in times of despair and giving us the strength we need to get through them. We praise your most holy name. Amen

Can Our Conscience Be Our Guide?

 I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. Acts 24: 16

Do you remember that little voice in your head as a child that would tell you that you shouldn’t do certain things – things such as lying, stealing, cheating, hurting someone, breaking a promise, being somewhere you weren’t supposed to be, or keeping things from your parents that you knew you shouldn’t?

We always knew we could trust our conscience to guide us. And if we followed it, we didn’t have to worry about carrying around the burden of feeling guilty or having the fear of being caught. We could live with a clear conscience. Those little feelings of discomfort or “promptings to do the right thing”  probably saved quite a few of us from time to time!

When I think of a “clear conscience”, I am reminded of an old episode of the  Andy Griffith Show  in which little Opie let someone else take the blame for something he had done. After he was tucked in for the night, he kept lying in his bed, with the covers pulled up around his neck, waiting anxiously for the door to open at any minute. He just knew his dad would come in, angry and upset, confront him with his crime, and punish him for it.

Finally, he couldn’t stand waiting any longer! He got up, ran into the living room, and blurted out his transgression! He remembered that he had been the one who had left the bird cage open, and his beloved little bird, Dickie, had flown away. He realized he couldn’t let Aunt Bee take the blame for something that was obviously his fault, and he just had to confess. Andy listened patiently, thanked him for telling the truth, and then reminded him that he would still have to suffer the consequences of his actions. But Opie was ok with that. He could now sleep and be at peace.

We may still hear this little voice, our conscience, from time to time and it can be valuable in helping us make wise choices – if life hasn’t silenced it too much with its “noise”! God gave us this little internal mechanism of knowing right from wrong for our own benefit and protection, but He knew it would only work if it has been properly “programmed”.

Our parents taught us certain moral lessons and rules to live by as we were growing up, we may have heard them in church and at school, and they became ingrained in our minds and hearts. But as we grew and changed, other people began to influence our thinking and beliefs. We may have rebelled against past standards and our value system changed over time. We began to reject or ignore those voices we once heard and no longer felt remorse or guilt. Nor did we fear judgment from others. We became desensitized to the ways of the world and even took on some of them as our own. We learned to rationalize, defend, and embrace new ideals and behaviors as we became more and more comfortable with them.

We’ve all heard the quote, “Let your conscience be your guide.” But sadly we can’t always depend on our conscience to tell us what is best. It may have become unreliable and even misleading.

Life and the people we have associated with have taught us many lessons, and not all of them have been positive and beneficial. We may no longer be able to trust in that voice we once heard. It can only become trustworthy when we use it along with the Word of God and his Holy Spirit within us. Only then can we have the protection and guidance we need. Then our conscience can become our life line and connection with God.

May we always keep our “conscience clear” before God and in our relationships with others. May our lives be filled with integrity and goodness to honor Him.

 Prayer

Dear God, may we be mindful of your truths and principles and live by them. May our consciences be aligned with your Word and your Spirit to live lives worthy of your love and grace. Amen

Show Mercy to Others

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6: 36

God in His wisdom has given us so many Scripture passages that can make us look deep into our hearts and reflect on what we see. This is certainly one of those! I do so want to show more mercy to others, and how I need and desire more mercy from those around me.

We often hear about God’s mercy and grace, but do we truly think about what these words mean? I found it defined this way: “Grace is the goodness or love of God given to those who have done nothing to deserve it. Mercy is the judgement or wrath of God withheld from those who do deserve it.” 

In other words, God is always being faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him. He doesn’t treat us as we deserve. He doesn’t withhold His blessings and love, but He “holds in” His disappointment and anger. No matter who we are or what we have done, we each receive His mercy in abundance. He loves us, forgives us, and accepts us!

But then, look at us – with all our judgments, flaws, and insecurities. How can we expect Him to give us His mercy and grace when we refuse to give it to others? What a humbling thought!

“Be merciful.” To show “mercy” as used in this passage means we are to show love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to those we may think are not worthy or deserving of us doing so. It means accepting people for who they are, even if we think they are not who they should be. It means to set things right between us and others, and to reach out to them with love and grace. In essence, we are not to judge them or hold them accountable for past words or actions; we are to give them another chance to show us who they can be.

We hear so much about the need to love  each other, but along with that love, we could surely use more mercy in our relationships with others. Amazingly, in today’s culture, it’s not even a quality we aspire to have. We don’t want to be seen as a “doormat” or as being disrespected, and we certainly have to always be “politically and socially correct”.

We seem to have such little tolerance or acceptance for other people’s opinions or viewpoints. If they don’t think or believe as we do, we have no use for them and often ridicule or condemn their thinking. If words, actions, or even appearances are not what we think they should be, we tend to give individuals the cold shoulder or remove ourselves from them completely. And amazingly, we don’t even have to be a witness to it ourselves!  If we hear of some “little perceived indiscretion” we don’t like, we may immediately make a conscious decision to hold that person in judgement. We may simply refuse to love and accept him/her from that moment on, and decide that we will never give them another chance to show us who they really are and who they can be.

This is not how God desires us to treat others. Jesus Christ showed mercy to everyone and so should we. We are to love our neighbors and show kindness.

Yet, showing mercy doesn’t come naturally. It takes a heartfelt commitment and effort on each of our parts to show forgiveness and compassion to those who have hurt us or to show love to those whom we feel are undeserving.

We need His Spirit within us to guide our thinking and help us to offer this grace to others. By doing so, we are honoring God and His command to love. May we see others through the same merciful eyes as our loving God and embrace the responsibility He has given us to show compassion and mercy to a hurting world.

Prayer

Our most merciful God, we thank you for your kindness and forgiveness, your love and your grace. Thank you for your faithfulness to us even when we are so unworthy. May we show the same mercy to those around us and honor you with our lives. Amen  

Stand Strong in Your Beliefs

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Daniel 1: 8

Can you believe how movies and TV shows have changed in the last few years? They have so much graphic violence (killing, murder, bloodshed, suffering), nudity, sexual images, immorality, foul language, and gross and inappropriate displays of humor, that they are uncomfortable to watch. And sometimes we may even feel as if some of them go against our Christian values to do so, and we have to choose what we are willing or unwilling to watch. And we especially have to use discretion with our children and grandchildren!

I sometimes think we need the strength, determination, and commitment of Daniel! Talk about standing up for your beliefs – even in the face of a life-threatening situation! I am so humbled by his willingness to honor God.

We learn in the book of Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, conquered Judah, and took into captivity several Israelite young men from royal families who had looked to be future leaders of that nation. He had great plans for them – to re-educate them and change who they were and what they believed in – so they might be used for the Babylonian Empire in Judah.

Among them were 4 young men named Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were probably around 14 or 15 years old at the time of their capture, and even then, these young men had already made the commitment in their hearts that they would not defile themselves before God. When the royal food and wine was brought before them, Daniel asked the chief official to show favor and sympathy to them and not require them to partake of such foods. He asked him to give them nothing but vegetables and water for 10 days and then compare their appearance with the others, and the official agreed.

Surprisingly, they were found to be healthier than any of the other young men who were eating the royal food. We are told that God had caused the official to show kindness to him and agreed to this plan even though it endangered his own life. Daniel had valued God’s standards, for God had asked His people not to eat any unclean foods (possibly meats that had been offered as sacrifices, or foods that were considered too rich or unhealthy for their bodies. Thankfully, Jesus Christ fulfilled the old covenant of the laws of Moses and with His coming, a new covenant was established.)

These young men had valued their relationship with God more than anything, including their lives. They were not willing to compromise or give in, and in return, God honored and blessed them for it – with much wisdom and knowledge which became useful while they were held in the king’s service.

We too should set our standards and values – mind, body, and soul – for what we believe in and what we will and will not participate in, in the name of our faith.

In this day and age, our world culture seeks to change who we are and what we believe in. How much “the lines we draw in the sand” have been moved in the last few decades. May we be guided by His truths and strengthened by His Spirit as we strive to remain strong in our beliefs!

Prayer

Dear God, what an uncertain time we live in, and how our “moral compass” is changing. May we be strong in standing up for our beliefs based on your truths. Help us to commit with our hearts and minds what we will and will not accept in your name. May our words, deeds, and lives always honor you. Amen

When God is Silent

Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? . . . Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love. Psalm 44:  23 – 24; 26

Have you ever felt as if God has totally rejected and forgotten you? I think we all have at some point in our lives. We understand all too well how it feels when God doesn’t come through for us as we had hoped – or even expected.

With His promises to us, we may have felt that if we prayed faithfully, were obedient, and trusted and believed in His grace, that He would answer our prayers and make His presence known – especially when we have cried out to Him in pain, sorrow, or despair. But when we received no sign of His presence, comfort, or assurance – only silence, we may have felt abandoned and hopeless. We may have become desperate to know He was there and that He cared, but with still no sign of His presence, we became disappointed, angry, and even disillusioned with this God we believed we could trust.

We may never understand His silence, but we can rest assured that God has a reason for it. He has something to teach us or show us. But what difficult lessons they are, and sometimes we lose patience and even question our faith.

Phillip Yancey, in his book, Disappointment With God, gives much insight into these difficult and painful times. Yancey is a Christian author who has written numerous books and has sold over 14 million copies worldwide. Many of his books examine questions about God and his own personal struggle with faith and his desire to find answers.

In this book, he has written about the many letters he has received and the many people he has talked to who have experienced this disappointment in God which led them to question their faith, this “hoped-for relationship that somehow hasn’t worked out”.  He especially focused on the story of a young theology student named Richard, who became so disillusioned with God that he reached out to Yancey with these questions: “Is God unfair? Is He silent? Is God Hidden? Does He care?” Are these not questions we all have asked?

Yancey understood the struggle this young man was experiencing, and he longed to answer these questions for him. He searched the Old Testament to find out more about the character of God, and he did an intense study of the book and life of Job. He studied closely the New Testament to see what difference Jesus Christ has made in our relationship with God, and he examined his own faith, as well as that of others.

He wrote how this deep and earnest study into the Scriptures put the questions about disappointment with God in a totally new light. He concluded that they are not puzzles to be solved, but rather, they are problems of relationship between human beings and a God who wants desperately to love and be loved by us. A God who wants our trust in Him. These words about who our God is were especially meaningful and comforting to me:

“I encountered not a misty vapor but an actual person. A person as unique and distinctive and colorful as any person I know. God has deep emotions; he feels delight and frustration and anger. In the Prophets, he weeps and mourns with pain.  . .  Again and again he is shocked by the behavior of human beings. . . .  As I read through the Bible, I marveled at how much God lets human beings affect him. I was unprepared for the joy and anguish – in short, the passion – of the God of the Universe. By studying “about” God, by taming him and reducing him to words and concepts that could be filed away in alphabetical order, I had lost the force of the passionate relationship God seeks above all else. The people who related to God best – Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah – treated him with startling familiarity. They talked to God as if He were sitting in a chair beside them, as one might talk to a counselor, a boss, a parent, or a lover. They treated Him like a person.”

God wants this same relationship with us. He longs for us to come to Him. Our loving Father is always with us, even when we can’t feel His presence in the silence. He understands our pain and anguish.

Yancey concedes that even if we believe that our God is with us and that He cares deeply about us, it still doesn’t answer all our questions, but it can give us hope. There were so many powerful statements he made throughout the book, but I thought these words especially spoke of the eternal hope we can have in Him: “In any discussion of disappointment with God, heaven is the last word, the most important word of all. Only heaven will finally solve the problem of God’s hiddenness. For the first time ever, human beings will be able to look upon God face to face. . .  The Bible never belittles human disappointment, but it does add one key word: temporary. What we feel now, we will not always feel. Our disappointment is in itself a sign, an aching, a hunger for something better. And faith is, in the end, a kind of homesickness – for a home we have never visited but have never once stopped longing for. . .”     

What a comforting thought to know that these feelings are temporary and our eternal home is on the horizon. Yancey ends Disappointment in God with these heartfelt words which describe how he felt when he finally put his doubts to rest about God’s presence in his life: “Someone is there, I realized. Someone is watching life as it unfolds on this planet. There is more. Someone is there who loves me. It was a startling feeling of wild hope, a feeling so new and overwhelming that it seemed fully worth risking my life on.”   

May we, too, be willing to take the risk and believe in this amazing God.

 Prayer

Dear God, we so long to know that you are always with us and that you care. We want to believe and trust in you even when we experience times of silence and disappointment. Help us to be strong in faith and realize that we may never truly understand the mysteries of your divine sovereignty, but we can always have the assurance of your love and saving grace. Amen

An Eternal Home

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal home in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5: 1

This past weekend Scott and Emily moved into their new home! They have looked forward to this time with much anticipation and excitement, and we are so happy for them! They are beginning a new chapter in their lives and we wonder what the pages will hold. Each room, every part of this home will bring so many memories, and we pray they will include much happiness and joy.

We all have memories that come to mind of the places we too have called “home” – whether it is the one we grew up in, or others we have lived in since! It seems like only yesterday that we moved into our first new home when Kelly was 14 months old, and Scott came along 4 years later. I was in the neighborhood of this home recently and rode by to see how much things had changed. A flood of memories came rushing back as I sat in the cul-de-sac for quite awhile just taking in all the changes that had taken place.

I saw images of us there – happy, laughing, the kids growing and changing, and I remembered all the love and good times we shared. I imagined Kelly and Scott racing down the driveway on their big wheels once again, and Bob washing the car and chasing after the kids with the water hose. I could picture them sleeping in their old bedrooms, and all of us huddled in the family room watching TV and playing Atari video games. So many stories inside those walls. So many memories. And yes, sentimental person that I am, I shed a few tears.

These old memories come to mind so easily. I remember so vividly the day we moved into our present home when Kelly was 13 and Scott was 7.  And just last week while Cole was here with us, I slept in Kel’s room to be nearer to him in his Uncle Scott’s room. For the longest time, I just lay on her bed thinking of all the times I had gone in to wake them up for school and had to step over the pom poms and cheerleading posters she had left lying around and to make my way through Scott’s Legos on the floor. I thought of all the times we watched them drive off and prayed they would return safely home. I smiled as I remembered all the times I had asked them to turn down their music or to get off the phone to do their homework. And of course, the tears fell once again, as I remembered with what sadness and anticipation we packed them off for college.

Where did the time go? So many memories and so many places God has taken us through the years. There was much joy, but there was also sadness, and during all the many changes and experiences – with each new chapter – we always knew that God’s presence was with us.

Now Kelly and Scott are grown, with families and homes of their own. We don’t know what the future holds for any of us, but we do know that God holds our lives in His hands. With all the sweet memories and the joy this life can bring, it’s difficult to think of leaving our loved ones behind, but we know there’s more to come. These earthly tents – our bodies and the houses we live in – are only temporary dwellings, and God has something much more wonderful planned for us.

Another new home! We have His promise that He has prepared an eternal home for us filled with His love, goodness, and glory. A home beyond anything we could ever imagine – made with His power and glory. How grateful we can be that we know it is awaiting our arrival and the price has already been paid! There will be no more sadness, but only great joy to come!

 Prayer

Our most gracious and loving Father, we thank you for the gift of life and its many blessings, but even more, we thank you that when this life ends, we have your promise of an eternal home with you. We give you all honor, praise, and glory. Amen

This is the Way

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying: This is the way; walk in it. Isaiah 30:21

Decisions! Decisions! Do you ever feel as if you just can’t figure out the best thing to do – especially if you are trying to make an important life changing decision for yourself or for you and your family?

We can go through the pros and cons and no matter how much time and attention we give it, it seems as if we are no closer to knowing what is best. Sometimes when we try to make these decisions on our own, we get overwhelmed, filled with anxiousness, and our bodies become overly stressed. Even if we go to others for advice and apply all the wisdom we have been given and make the choice, we may be filled with so many doubts and second-guessing, that we feel no sense of peace or finality! As difficult as it may seem, sometimes we just need to turn it over to God, be patient, and let Him lead us in choosing the right path.

There is no better place to leave it than in His hands, for we know that God loves us, desires the best for us, and wants to guide us in making difficult choices. We can trust in Him, but it takes courage and faith to let it go and to totally depend on His guidance. By doing so, we are giving up our own control and being committed to His direction.

Often the most difficult part is realizing that our timing is not always God’s timing. We may feel an urgency that is not necessary, and we may just need to wait on Him. As we patiently wait, we need to search our hearts, look to Him, and be in prayer to try to discern His will for what is best for us. He may choose to respond as we are spending time with Him in prayer or during moments of quiet stillness. We may think we hear His still, quiet voice giving us the answer, or He may simply fill us with the most amazing peace and assurance that one way is the best.

Sometimes that peace is His answer and the only voice we need to hear. Things will begin to fall into place and we will know what we should do: “This is the way; walk in it.” What freedom we can experience as we leave our decisions to Him and trust in His love and grace to guide us.

 Prayer

Our heavenly Father, thank you that we can come to you for help with all our concerns, challenges, and major decisions we need to make in our lives. We know you want what is best for us and you will help us to find the right path. Grant us your peace and your assurance as we seek your will. Amen

Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You

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

Nothing can get my day off to a better start than an early walk around our neighborhood. I often plug in my ear phones and listen to some of my favorite praise music or some of those old, familiar hymns, and sometimes I quietly sing along. It puts an extra bounce in my step and helps take away any concerns or cares I may be feeling. And I soon feel such gratitude and peace. What is it about music that can just lift our souls and touch our hearts?

Amazingly, there is actually some credible scientific proof about the power music has over our minds and bodies. “According to the founder of The Institute for Music, Health and Education, music can communicate to us even when we’re not influenced by the words of a song. The human heartbeat is especially attuned to sound – changes in tempo and volume act as natural pacemakers. Breathing slows down or speeds up along with the music. It can have a direct effect on the function of the brain. It can slow down and equalize brain waves to create a meditative state, or it can energize brain waves  – quickening, the thinking process and enhancing creativity. Even the cells of your body respond to music. One study found that just 15 minutes of listening to music could increase levels of immune chemicals – vital to protect against disease and the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) dropped by up to 25%.

When God created us, He knew that this life would be filled with burdens and stress beyond our means to control. Isn’t it amazing that in His plans to help us with these times, He not only gave us His Word to dwell in our hearts, and His Spirit to live within us, but He also created music.

What a gift to bring us pleasure and joy, but also to calm our anxious spirits and soothe our souls. I am in awe of all the ways He has shown His love, care, and provision for us. Can you even imagine a world without music? What joy we would miss!

How grateful we should be for this blessing and the ability to lift our voices in song. What power music can have as it communicates thoughts and feelings, it inspires our imaginations, and it touches our hearts. It awakens memories and can give us comfort and hope. And if we are singing about God and His love, the reminder of His presence can help us rise above any painful or troubling circumstances we might have.

What a simple and pleasurable instruction to follow: “Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God.”

May we surround ourselves and our children with music that lifts our hearts and glorifies God, and may we sing about His goodness and grace. May we use the opportunities we have to share His message of love to others. And as we teach and encourage them with our songs, what a glorious message it will be!

Prayer

Thank you God for the gift of music as it fills our hearts and our lives with such peace and joy. May we use our voices in song to share with others about your love and grace. May the words about your abiding presence always “dwell richly in our hearts”.  Amen