Today is a Gift

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90: 12

If we could be told how many days we have left on this earth, would you want to know? If you did know, do you think you would do anything differently? I wonder if we were given the time – even if it was near or far in the future – if we would appreciate this day more.

Yet, we already know that our time here is limited – our days are numbered, and that only God knows how many we have left. This verse from Psalm 90, a prayer written by Moses, is a good reminder of this truth, which essentially says: “Dear Lord, remind us often of how short our lives are, what a gift each day is and how we need to treasure each one and use it wisely.”

That tends to put life into perspective, doesn’t it?  Sometimes we just need to stop and reflect on the goodness and beauty of life and appreciate all it brings.

Life is such a gift. We aren’t promised tomorrow. But by the grace of God we have today. We must make the most of the moments we are given. As we grow in faith and knowledge of His Word, may His wisdom show us how to live each day to the fullest, to recognize what is truly important in this life, and to share the love of Christ with others.

What will we do with today? What is it that God would have us do with this one more day He has given us?

Prayer 

Dear God, thank you for the gift of life and for the many blessings you give us. Give us wisdom to know how to use each day wisely so others will see your love and mercy in us. Amen  

His Will

This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

How many times have we all prayed to God about this one thing on our hearts and really tried to wait patiently for His answer? We have asked as reverently as we know how, we have waited in faith and expectation, and we have hoped for it to be answered in the way we desired with all our hearts. We truly believed it was what was best for us or someone we cared about, but God did not, and our prayer was not answered as we had hoped. God had something more beneficial in mind.

Isn’t it the hardest thing in the world to pray with all sincerity and confidence, “Dear God, I trust in you and I ask that your will be done about this concern in my life.” In doing so, we are giving up our own control and are submitting our lives into His hands and trusting in His love and grace. This prayer honors God and demonstrates our full commitment and trust in Him.

I read a book recently called Just Do Something:  A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will.  There was one part that really made me think about the way I pray. The author wrote: “Most of our prayers fall into one of 2 categories. Either we ask that everything WILL be fine, or we ask to KNOW that everything will be fine in the future. Our prayers boil down to this, “God, please don’t let anything unpleasant happen to anyone. Make everything in the world nice for everyone.”  

Is this not so much like our prayers?  It’s as if we want His assurance that we and everyone we love will live happily ever after. Gratefully, God knows our thoughts and understands our concerns and our love for those we care about. Yet, obsessing over the future is not how God wants us to live. He doesn’t want us to worry or be anxious but to simply trust that He will always be with us and will carry us through. We can’t know His will for our lives, but we can trust that He knows what is best for us. God wants us to surrender our will to His in love and faith. And if we do so, He will give us the strength and peace to accept whatever comes our way.

But sometimes as we surrender to His will, we may need to cry out as the father of a sick child did to Jesus: “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Just like this father, we often believe in God, but we have trouble believing God and His promises for us. We want to with all our hearts, but our faith is weak. Sometimes His way is painful and so difficult to understand, and at other times, we find that God truly did know what was best for us and answered our prayer in a way that we could have never imagined. God can and will give us strength if we will only believe in His love and learn to TRUST Him unconditionally.

 Prayer

Gracious Lord, we are so grateful for the ease and confidence with which we can come before your throne with the concerns of our hearts. Give us the power of your spirit to believe and trust in your will – that we may truly know how much you love us. Amen

Perfect Peace

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26: 3 -4

Peace . . .  Perfect peace. The older I get, the more I realize what a gift it can be. Yes, peace in our nation and in our world is much needed as chaos reigns about us, and we certainly need peace in our families to be able to live with the knowledge that we are loved, valued, and appreciated. But the greatest need for peace lies in our own hearts – the peace of knowing that all is well, that no matter what comes our way, God will be with us. We need to know that we can trust Him to give us whatever is needed – whether it be guidance in making a decision, comfort in times of hopelessness, or strength in times of weakness and despair.

We all need to know and believe that even in the midst of all of life’s difficulties, that God holds us in His hands. No matter how dark our circumstances or how uncertain life may become, if our minds will stay steadfast and focused on trusting Him, He will give us the gift of His perfect peace. How tempting it is to think that the God of the universe has more important things than us and our problems to be concerned with. How often we feel alone and in despair, but His Word promises that Our Creator and Sustainer of life sees and cares about us and wants to meet whatever need we might have.

His peace may not always be the removal of our problems, but it is His presence and His Spirit within us that gives us His strength, His comfort, and His love to get through whatever might lie before us. He wants us to come to Him with our burdens and our cares, and let His love calm our souls and quiet our troubled spirits. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”

 Prayer

Dear God, help us to keep our minds steadfast on you and not let the fears and anxieties of this world overtake the peace that you long to give us. May we trust in your most gracious and holy name. Amen

Worthy of Christ

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27

This past weekend we went to visit Kelly and her family. On Saturday, we did what many parents and grandparents do across this land of ours – we went to see the boys play ball and we cheered them on!

Cole’s T-ball game was first and it was amazing to watch this little, fun loving guy become so serious about playing with his team. Miles’s baseball game followed, and he is definitely our sports fanatic. He loves any competition and especially enjoys facing the challenge of doing his very best and helping his teammates to do the same. They both love the opportunity to play and want to give it their all! And give it their all, they did! Even after colliding with another player, being really shaken up, and getting band-aids for his scrapes, Cole went back to the game and focused on the task at hand.

We loved watching not only our boys, but all the team members. They looked so cute and proud in their little uniforms! ( Our boys would not like hearing such comments!) All of them were so respectful to each other and really seemed to have fun being a team and working together for one purpose – to help each other play well. They encouraged each other – even members on the opposite team – and they listened carefully and obeyed all the coaches’ instructions. You could see they were already learning good sportsmanship as they praised each other’s efforts and graciously shook hands with their opponents at the end of the game . (And it was all in fun as they never keep score – although Miles does in his head!)

If only we adults could learn and practice the rules of “good sportsmanship” in this game of life. If only we could “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  

What a humbling thought – especially with all the dissension around us. But what is even more humbling is the thought that any of us could ever become worthy of deserving God’s love and goodness, and we certainly can’t ever be worthy of  His saving grace. But we can always strive to be the best we can be for Him.

If only we could have the same attitude about life and each other as these young players did about their game. If only we could show respect and admiration for everyone around us, be more forgiving and not “keep score” of the wrongs against us, encourage and build each other up, and commit ourselves “to stand firm in one spirit” for one purpose – to love and serve Christ.

If we could only appreciate each day we have been given, find joy in the little things, and utilize the strength and courage God gives us in the face of  fear and insecurity. If we could get right back “into the game” once we are “knocked down” by the painful struggles of life and move forward with faith and devotion. And if we also could proudly and boldly wear the name of Christ and remain faithful and dedicated to His calling on our lives. For we too have a loving “coach” who longs to give us His guidance and direction to help us be all we can be. How grateful we can be that He will guide us as we “finish the game” in this life and reach our eternal home with Him.

We will never be worthy of His love and grace, but we can strive to become more of the righteous, loving, merciful, and compassionate individuals God desires us to be. May He show us the way.

Prayer 

Our most gracious and loving Lord, we thank you for the blessings of life and for your saving grace. May we look to you to help us become the individuals you would have us be and to always seek your guidance and direction in all we do. Amen

Come Near to God

Come near to God and He will come near to you. James 4:8

Do you feel close to God at this time in your life? I am sure all of us have gone through periods when we have felt closer to Him than at other times. I love this old story which might shed some light on those times when we haven’t.

A farmer and his wife were driving to town in their pickup truck. The farmer was sitting behind the steering wheel in silence; his wife was sitting on the other side of the cab against the door. After several miles the wife said, “Jed, when we first got married we didn’t sit this far apart.” The old farmer dryly replied, “I ain’t the one that moved.” 

Could this be true of us? Have we moved away from Him? Just as our personal relationships take time, effort, and devotion, so does our relationship with God. Perhaps we have been so busy, so preoccupied with life that He has just been a passing thought. Or maybe life has been so good that we haven’t really needed Him and called out to Him in prayer. But isn’t it sad to think that we would be willing to settle for such an empty relationship with God when we could have so much more?

He has indeed promised more, and one of those promises is that the nearer we draw to Him, the nearer He will come to us. God seeks and desires to have a loving relationship with each of us, and each one is personal, unique, and our own. He wants to spend time with us in prayer and in quiet reflection. He wants us to come to Him when we are in need and He longs to give us His blessings. And the more time we spend with Him, the more He will reveal Himself and His love and grace to us.

God loves us unconditionally, and He has done amazing things to draw us nearer to Him. He has given us His Son, His Spirit to live in us, and His Word to guide and comfort us.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you”. We may have doubts and questions, but this truth is really the only one that truly matters. Everything else will fall into place and the answers will come when we find His loving presence and begin to trust in Him.

Prayer

Dear God, we are so grateful that we know you, can call upon you, and that you will hear us and answer with love, compassion, and assurance. Help us to know you more, to seek you and love you with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Amen

How Many Your Works, O Lord!

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104: 2

We have a new neighbor and each morning when I go to get the mail or to walk, her two dogs, Tanner and Lucy, come running to greet me! They are so sweet and they remind me of how much I miss our much loved pets – Deacon, the Alaskan husky we had for 16 years, and Crosby, our cat of 18! They were such a part of our family and our lives for so many years, and there aren’t many days that I don’t think of them in some way. I sometimes even think I glimpse one of them coming around a corner, running to greet me, and I smile remembering all the many times they did so!

We know and recognize that for many people having a pet to love is one of life’s greatest joys! We not only bring them into our homes, but we take them deep into our hearts. They can bring much happiness, companionship, and enjoyment, and many can’t imagine their lives without these trustworthy companions. They love us unconditionally and often seem to give us much more than they themselves receive.

I think of Scott and Emily and how much they love their little chihuahua, Minnie, and how much joy she brings them. But I also think of Miles and Cole and how much they enjoy going to zoos, aquariums, and studying many of the different animals throughout the world.

How in awe we all can be of the variety, complexity, and the wonder of all the amazing creatures God has created! What gifts He gives us to make our lives happier and more content. But the scope of this gift is mind boggling!

A recent census has given the new estimated total number of species in the world to be 8.7 million. (Give or take a million, with 6. 5 on land and 2.2 in water. Hhmm. . . the things we can find on line!) And even more amazing is that 10 – 15,000 new species are discovered each year! How can anyone doubt the existence of an omnipotent God who can create such diversity and uniqueness! How could such beings be created out of the randomness of nature?

We can see the value God gives to these creatures in Scripture from these examples:

Revelation 4:11 tells us that all things were created for God’s pleasure.

Job 12:10 assures us that “in His hand is the life of every creature”.

Matthew 10:29 says that even when a little sparrow falls to the ground, God notices.

Matthew 6:26 describes how God Himself feeds the animals.

Luke 12:6 says that God never forgets about the animals.

What an amazing, loving God who has given us these creatures to enjoy! In what wisdom He made them all!

Prayer 

Thank you, Dear God, for all the works of your hand and for all the creatures you have created. We are in awe of your greatness and goodness to us. Amen 

Right Words at the Right Time

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25: 11

I remember many times in my life when someone has said just the words I needed to hear. I’m sure you do, as well. And hopefully we, too, have done the same for others.

We all need a kind, encouraging word to help lift our spirits from time to time! Scripture tells us that our words are to be suitable for the moment – sweet to the soul and soothing to our hearts. Sometimes we need to be a source of information, comfort, and encouragement. And at other times, we need to know when to speak and when to be silent. Sometimes we just need to be still and listen. What power our words can have. They can destroy or they can build up. They can spread hatred or love. They can discourage or encourage. They can make us smile and they can make us cry. A loving word can heal and it can bless.

You may have heard this expression: “When you share in someone’s sadness, sorrow is divided. When you share in their joy, it is multiplied!” We can never overestimate the power of a perfectly timed word of kind understanding and sympathy, a word of encouragement, a compliment, or a word of gratitude for another’s joy. We need each other to share in all these experiences of life. May our eyes be opened to those around us and may we speak just “the right words at just the right time.” May we be a blessing in all we say and do.

Prayer

Our heavenly Father, we thank you for those you have placed in our lives to encourage us and carry us through the difficult times of life. May we bless others around us with loving and caring words that are spoken at the time they need it most. We give you all praise and honor. Amen

May We Pray

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5: 10 – 11

There have been many reports on the news recently about the persecution of Christians. Many in Iraq whose families have lived there for centuries are being forced to leave their homes to escape death. Many are being forced to flee in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well, while others are being imprisoned in Iran and other nations. This gives many people even more reason to ask, “Where is God?  If God is who He says He is, why would He let these things happen to the people He promised to keep in His care?” Yet, God knew these times would come.

It is so difficult for us Christians to understand the attitude of non-Christians toward us when we have a message that could bring such assurance of God’s love and hope to their lives. But for the most part, they don’t want anything to do with us or what we have to share. They completely reject our values and our beliefs. If we don’t act, talk, or think like the world does, we are different. We stand out. Perhaps we make them feel uncomfortable and threatened as we bring to light the darkness in which they live. They choose to reject God and in turn they reject us, and those strong emotions can lead to persecution.

Persecution means “hostility and ill treatment; the act of  oppressing or punishing, even causing harm or death because of religion or race.” We tend to think of persecution as something that only happened to early believers, but sadly, more Christians have been martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined. The Bible clearly teaches that as our culture becomes more secularized, that Christianity, the church, and Christians will come under greater and more intense attack. We already see Christians being portrayed as intolerant zealots and our very values and beliefs are being ridiculed, attacked, and limited in our own nation – one that was founded upon Christian values and has stood as a beacon of light around the world.

May we pray for these Christians who are being persecuted – that they will feel God’s strength and courage and that they can rest in the knowledge that His presence is with them. May we pray for our fellow Christians in our own country – that each of us will have the faith and strength to stand up for the One who gave His life for us. And may we pray for those who don’t know His saving grace.

We will trust in Him and His eternal plan for all those who call upon His name.

 Prayer

Our most loving and gracious Lord, we ask that you be with Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith. We pray for Christians in our own nation. May your spirit fill all our hearts with strength to trust in you. Amen

May Others See His Spirit in Us

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3: 2 – 3

When is the last time you received a hand-written letter? It’s become a dying art, hasn’t it? How sad that this generation won’t have those cherished love letters from the past bound with string and tucked away, or those sweet letters from relatives and friends filled with love and news of their lives – to be read and reread many times in the future!

How our world has changed! Letter writing was the most important means of correspondence in Paul’s day, and the book of 2 Corinthians is believed to be the second one he wrote to the church of Corinth. Because letters were so important, it was not unusual that Paul used this metaphor when he referred to these early believers.

In this one, he said that they themselves were an open “letter” of the transforming power of Christ and an example of what the Holy Spirit could do in their lives for all to see. More than just writing letters on stone (reference to the 10 commandments given to Moses), God had written His laws and truths on their hearts. They were living, breathing examples of His love and grace.

This verse reminds us that we, too, are a living Bible for all to see. Our actions tell the story of our lives and the presence of His Spirit within us. We, too, are an open “letter” for all to see. We are showing the love of Christ to those around us by the things we say, do, and think. What an awesome privilege and responsibility we have to represent Him and His Gospel of love to others with truth and sincerity.

We’ve all heard similar stories such as the one of the woman traveling down the road with bumper stickers on her car with the sayings, “Love God!”“Love your neighbor”, and “Jesus saves!”  When another driver cut in front of her, only missing her by a few inches, she veered off the road. The other driver stopped to see if she needed help, and when he came up to her car, she started beating the steering wheel with her fists, ranting and raving, and cursing him. Obviously, she wanted everyone to think that she had the gentle, caring, and loving attitude of Christ, when in fact, she didn’t.

Aren’t we all like this at times? The tone of our voice, the words and actions we choose just don’t match up with His message of grace. Until the world sees that we truly love God first, and that we love them unconditionally, they won’t care what words of truth we speak or share with them through bumper stickers or any other means. Our words mean nothing unless they are backed up by the transforming grace of the Spirit of our living God – and they see Him in us.

Prayer

Dear God, how grateful we are that we can call ourselves yours. May we realize the influence our lives can have on others and always be true examples of your love and grace to the world around us. Amen   

He Will Calm Our Fears

Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him.’’ Matthew 8: 26 – 27

How many times we let anxiety turn into fear! What a powerful emotion it is as it defies logical thinking! Yet, circumstances in our lives and in our world can become so frightening and overwhelming that we can begin to question God and lose trust in His loving care.

Can’t you just hear Him saying to us, “Oh, you of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  How can we ever doubt our God, who can even tame the winds and the storms of life!

One of the most well-known stories of Jesus and his disciples is the one in which they cross the Sea of Galilee during a storm and Jesus calms the winds. Both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record this event to remind us that Jesus is always “in the boat” with us, and with Him by our side, how can we ever be afraid?

From these passages we can almost visualize the story and wonder if perhaps because of all the crowds that had been following Him around, Jesus needed some privacy or just some quiet time, so He suggested a trip across the Galilee. A furious storm suddenly appeared with great winds, water splashing into their small fishing boat, and it quickly became a life-threatening situation. These fishermen who were used to storms on the sea and had probably survived many, became filled with fear and were probably much dismayed to find Jesus sleeping. Filled with despair, they asked, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus immediately got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4: 38 -39)

The disciples were amazed by His power and authority and wondered at this man who could even calm the winds and the waves.

Like the disciples, we too may find ourselves in the midst of many storms in life – the problems, challenges, and difficulties that can bring anxiety and fear. But we, too, can experience God’s presence even in the midst of them if we look to Him. In the stormy circumstances we face, He is always with us and so is His Word which can give us peace, hope, and assurance. And whatever they may bring, He will calm our fears and carry us through.

 Prayer

Dear Lord, may we always find you in the midst of our storms, ready to calm our fears and soothe our troubled hearts. May our fear turn to faith and trust in you. Amen

Don’t Wait!

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” –  when you now have it with you. Proverbs 3: 27 – 28

I have so many things on my mental list that I would like to do for others. I have good intentions! I always do, but then how many times, I let the opportunity pass, and I don’t follow through.

We have new neighbors and I keep thinking I will take them a meal or help out in some way. I have had a box of “Thinking of You” cards on our desk to send to several individuals for a week. I meant to go to the library to get my sister a couple of Francine Rivers’ books to read. A little lady at the Assisted Living Home I recently visited mentioned that she didn’t have a Bible, and I promised I would bring her one. I have a friend who is going through a really difficult time and I want to spend some time encouraging her and showing her how much I care. I have some things to donate to Goodwill and some items to take to the local food pantry.  And the list goes on and on . . . Yet, I keep procrastinating!

We all do it from time to time! We lead such busy lives that we think we can barely take care of our own. And often, we do nothing because we think we can’t really fix the situation – the need is just too great. Loving our neighbor as God commands is often ignored or put aside. Yet, this verse is a good reminder that we shouldn’t wait until tomorrow. We should refrain from putting off good deeds when the opportunity to do so is right before us. We shouldn’t deny the help or assistance that is needed, but we should lovingly act today.

There are so many needs around us – with our loved ones, neighbors, and all those we come into contact with. Whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual needs, we are called upon to make a difference – to show that we care and to offer assistance in whatever form we can. We can always help in small ways even if we can’t make a significant change. Sometimes others just need to know that we see and recognize their need and are there with love and prayers. May our hearts be open to the possibilities around us and may we always show kindness and compassion to others!

Prayer

Dear God, we live in a hurting world and we know there are so many needs around us. How often we think there is simply no way we can help or we think there may be a better time later. May we be better stewards of the love and blessings you have given us and share them with others.  Amen

God Is Nearer Than We Think

God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. Acts 17: 27

A couple of years ago, one of my dear friends gave me a little Daily Devotional book entitled Jesus Calling:  Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. It has beautiful and powerful messages for each day “written as if Jesus Himself is speaking to you. Because He is. Do you hear Him calling?” This is one of my favorite entries:

“I am nearer than you think, richly present in all your moments. You are connected to Me by love – bonds that nothing can sever. However, you may sometimes feel alone, because your union with Me is invisible. Ask Me to open your eyes, so that you can find Me everywhere. The more aware you are of My Presence, the safer you feel. This is not some sort of escape from reality; it is tuning into ultimate reality. I am far more real than the world you see, hear, and touch. Faith is the confirmation of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality, perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.”  

May we feel His presence and hear His call for “He is nearer than we think!”

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, how grateful we are for your love and presence. May we be able to see you in all the small, simple, and magnificent ways you show yourself to us each and every day and always praise your most Holy name. Amen  

The Lord Will Fulfill His Purpose

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:8

Do you ever wonder what your purpose is in life or why you are here? We all need to have one – a reason for getting up each morning and going through the day. We need to know that we are of worth and value and that we are using our minds and bodies. And as Christians, we often want to know how we can best serve God and fulfill that which He created us for.

The truth is sometimes we simply can’t know for sure what His plans are, but we can have the assurance that He wants us to do the work before us and be productive and useful. He may use us exactly where we are with the talents and abilities He has given us, or He may pull us out of our normal routines and present us with challenges and opportunities we could have never imagined.

The amazing thing about God is that He doesn’t always seem to be working toward a particular outcome in our lives. He may be much more interested in who we become rather than what we do. He may be molding and shaping us for what lies ahead, but we can trust that He knows what is best. We can rest assured that He will complete His purpose for each of us. He created us, He will perfect us, and He will complete the work He began in us. Even if we can’t see or understand how, we can know that in His divine sovereignty, He has a plan for us and for the world He created.

What places He carries us as He works out His purpose for us – far beyond our own simple plans. And what love He has for us – so boundless, unconditional, and filled with His tender mercy and compassion. We are “the work of His hands” and we have the assurance that His love will endure forever.

Prayer

Dear Lord, we thank you for your love, your grace, and for all the many blessings of life you have to give. Open our hearts to all the possibilities we can find through a life filled with you. May we seek You and your guidance and direction in all that we do. Amen

Go With Us, Lord

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  Exodus 33: 15

While the boys were with us, we took them to visit Granny, their great grandmother. While we were all sitting on her front porch talking, Miles and Cole remembered the last time they had been and how they had picked apples off a tree in her backyard. It was their first time for doing so, and they thought it was the grandest thing! They wanted to do it again!

Granny wasn’t sure there were any ripe ones, so she told them to go around back and check, and if there were, they could yell for us and we would come and help. As they looked at each other, they seemed apprehensive about going alone and finally said to me, “You are going with us, aren’t you?  If not, then we don’t wanna go either!” Of course, I couldn’t deny their request!

Imagine saying these words to the God of the Universe! As we can see in this verse, Moses actually did! I am sure we have all felt the same way during those times when God was sending us on a path we were unsure of. This journey of life often takes us “places” that can fill us with uneasiness and fear of what is to come. Sometimes we even wonder if He is aware of what we are going through, or if He even cares. We want a sign that He knows, and we especially want His presence, assurance, and guidance along the way. We want to have confidence that He will be with us – every step of the way.

Moses needed the same assurance before leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. We know the story of God giving him the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai to take down to His people. But when Moses returned, he discovered that they had pressed Aaron into making an idol to worship. God was so angry with them that He threatened to destroy them. Moses was angry, as well, but out of  love, he petitioned God to spare them, and he even offered to sacrifice his own life. God gave directions to Moses to take his people into Canaan as He had promised – but without His divine presence.

Then Moses stood in the “tent of meeting”, heartbroken before God, and reminded Him that this nation was His people. He petitioned the Lord on their behalf as he said these words: “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and  with your people unless you go with us?  What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” 

God heard Moses, and He made a covenant with him and the people of Israel, that if they did what He directed them to do, including building the Tabernacle, His faithfulness and promises to them would continue. (Moses, we remember, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, but Joshua carried the people forward.)

How grateful we can be that we don’t have to ask God to go with us. We have His promise that He will always be with us wherever we go if we seek and trust Him. He will give us the strength, courage, and assurance to face whatever situation comes our way, and we will know that His love and grace will always follow. May the world see our trust in Him as we walk this journey of faith and may they know that we are His people, distinct and different from all others.

Prayer

Our most gracious God, how grateful we are for your presence with us. May our faith and trust in you be a light to the rest of the world as others see our faith in you. Amen

Continue to Live in Him

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2: 6 – 7

I really like indoor plants and they seem to bring so much life to a room. But I’ve never really had much luck with keeping them healthy. It seems as if I always either water them much too much and kill the roots, or I don’t water them enough, and the plant slowly, but surely, begins to die due to lack of nourishment to its stems and leaves. I always feel the moisture in the soil and tend to water accordingly, but I sometimes forget how important the root system is to its ability to thrive and grow.

We can think of our trust in God in the same way. Just as a root gives stability, nourishment, and life to a plant, we need deep “roots” of faith to sustain us during the difficult times in life. Just as a plant’s past and present determine how it will flourish and grow, our past and present relationship with God is important to our spiritual well-being and ability to “walk in faith“.

Hopefully our souls have been“seeded” in His love, and no matter how weak and anxious we have become, we have learned to depend upon His presence and grace. In doing so, our faith has been able to grow until we have become “rooted” and strengthened in Him. And if so, no matter how unsuitable the “soil” or the world around us may be, we have learned to remain strong and faithful through His guidance and love.

What peace to know that our lives, our hope, and our security rest in Him. He is our refuge as the circumstances of life overwhelm us. Our “roots” have been given nourishment through the provision of His Word, and hopefully, we will continue to grow and bear fruit for Him.

We may not always be able to see, or even be aware, that we are making progress in this “faith walk”, but we are. Each one of us is an ongoing work, and even when it feels as if we are tearing down what He has “built up” in us, He will not give up.

What a comfort to know that He is working slowly and surely to shape our hearts and our souls into the strong children of faith He would have us be. How grateful we can be from an overflowing heart to God for never giving up on us even when we become weak and disheartened, and for giving us the hope and faith to continue to look to Him.

Prayer

Our gracious Lord, you are our refuge in times of trouble, and our comfort and our strength. May we continue to live in you, be built up by you, and strengthened in faith by your loving presence. We give you praise from an overflowing heart.  Amen

He Gives Us Everything We Need

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1: 3 – 4

Our boys are spending a few days with us before their summer vacation ends and they return to school. It has been such a joy having them. Waking up and hearing those sweet little voices with all their enthusiasm makes our day! But as much as their granddad loves them being here, he gets a little nervous that they might get hurt in some way, and we are constantly hearing, “Be careful! Watch out! Don’t run so fast!  I don’t want you to get hurt!”  

He gave these same “age appropriate” warnings to Kelly and Scott as they were growing up, and he still constantly gives them to all of us. (Proof that we will never age out of needing them!)  In his mind, he thinks if something were to happen, it would be his fault for not reminding us. Poor guy. He’s always looking out for us! We appreciate his concern, and even when we don’t feel as if we need it, we just take it in stride. If it makes him feel better, we go with it.

But Cole must have heard one too many last night as Granddad once again told the boys at dinner,” Eat slowly and concentrate!” Cole  looked at him, with this funny little expression on his face, and said, “Ok, Old Man, I am 5 years old and I know how to eat at my own limit.”

Bob, Miles, and I looked at each other a little shocked as we tried not to laugh! And when I asked him why he would say that to his granddad, he said, “Because Granddad is always telling me to be careful and I’m 5. I know what to do!” He had certainly never referred to him as “Old Man” before – none of us have ever used the term, and where he heard it, we have no clue. We knew that he didn’t mean any disrespect. He was just trying to make his point that Granddad really didn’t need to worry about him so much.

I explained to him that Granddad does the same thing to all of us, even me! And he only does it because he cares about us. He loves him and Miles so much, he knows what is best sometimes, and he wants to make sure they will always be safe and taken care of. Cole got this really serious look on his face, and said, “Hhmm . . .” , as if it made perfect sense and for the first time he  really understood why his granddad is always looking out for him.

Isn’t this so like us in our relationship with God? He created us, gave us life, knows what is best for us, and wants to give us everything we could possibly need – the very best life has to offer, but we often want to do it our own way – at our own pace and without His interference. We want what the world has to offer and we want to seek what we need on our own and through the people around us. We don’t feel as if we really need Him.

But yet, our lives are not our own. They were given to us by our loving God and the abundant life cannot be ours without the knowledge of His divine presence and power. There are no other individuals or “institutions” in this life that can or will be fully sufficient to take care of all our needs, but gratefully there is One who can, and He is the Creator and Sustainer of life.

We have His “very great and precious promises” that He will always provide everything we need, along with His love, comfort, grace, and peace. The more we know Him – through His Word and His Spirit, through fellowship with other believers and through our relationship with Him – the more power we will have to escape the evils of this world. We have learned that it’s not something we have the power or will to do on our own. We need Him to show us the way.

 Prayer

Our heavenly Father, we thank you for the sufficiency of your love, grace, and peace. Thank you for the knowledge that you will provide for us, sustain us, and keep us in your eternal care. May we always look to you and not to others around us or to our own power to provide what we need. Amen

The Work of Our Hands

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17

Sometimes when I look at my hands and see how they are aging, I think of my dear mom. So many times I held hers in mine and gently caressed those wrinkled, tired hands that had become so ravished with time, before she passed away at the age of 94. I could see so much of her past in each line and wrinkle. They always reminded me of the many lives she had touched with the “work of her hands”.

She held 9 babies in those sweet hands and felt the life go out of 3 of them as they breathed their last breaths in her arms. She lovingly held 15 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. She served God through her church and her community. She worked hard through the years making her children’s clothes, tending to the garden, canning and freezing the vegetables and fruits, quilting beautiful designs – stitch by stitch by hand, preparing meals for her large family, picking berries and apples, rolling many pie crusts, washing clothes and hanging them on the line, feeding our farm animals, and working alongside my dad and our family on the farm.

How much work those hands did. How much love they had given. The chaplain at the retirement home where she lived for almost 10 years used to say about her, “I’ve never known anyone who could so lovingly hug you with her hands.” She did so with everyone who came within her reach – loved ones, friends, the staff at the home, and complete strangers. We all were the recipients of her gracious, gentle spirit.

How I would love to see and hold those hands once again. And how I would love to see her holding her beloved Bible as she placed her finger under each verse as she read those words she so loved. What a beautiful image that has left in my memory.

Sometimes the work we do with our hands will matter in ways we may never see and cannot begin to imagine. God’s favor and blessing may be upon the work we do and it may touch lives in significant and meaningful ways. God wants us to be His hands in this world that is so in need of a loving touch. He wants us to join Him in the work He is doing and always give Him our best efforts. He will establish and lead us to do the work He has for us to do. What feelings of worth and accomplishment we can have as we use the talents and abilities God has given us. How grateful we can be for the work we have to do.

May we too see ways that we are serving others with our hands and embracing life with the work that is before us. May He use our hands today to show His love to others.

Prayer

Dear Lord, how much we take the gift of our hands for granted. We thank you for the opportunity to work, be productive, serve you, and love others with “the work of our hands”. Amen

By Faith

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11: 30 – 31

Did you know that Chapter 11 in the book of Hebrews is sometimes referred to as “The Hall of Faith”?  It is here that the writer has given a list of heroic figures from the Old Testament who stand out as examples to encourage us in our faith. Interestingly, out of all the women in Scripture, only 2 were included – Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and Rahab, the harlot.

We understand Sarah. She exemplified Christian values, but Rahab? She was a prostitute, and most likely she was a temple prostitute which would have been considered an acceptable line of work by the people of her land. But still, we may wonder why God would have chosen to recognize such an unlikely character.

Two words  . . . “BY FAITH”. In this verse, we learn that it was “by faith” that the walls of Jericho fell, and it was “by faith” that Rahab risked her life to help God’s people take the city. By doing so, she and her family were the only ones saved among the inhabitants there who had refused to obey God.

We know the story of Moses leading the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness for 40 long years, and how as they were about to enter Canaan, the Promised Land, God transferred the mantle of leadership to Joshua. You may remember the story of Joshua and how he and his men marched around the city of Jericho, and with shouts from the people and the sound of trumpets, the walls collapsed under God’s command. You may also remember that Rahab was a signigficant part of the story.

Joshua had sent out spies to determine the strength of the city and the walls that surrounded it before entering. As soon as the two men entered the city gate, they went to the home of the prostitute Rahab, which may have also been an inn as it was situated on or within the great outer wall. When the King of Jericho heard that the men had entered the city, he immediately sent soldiers to her house.

Rahab must have somehow known the gravity of the situation because she immediately hid them under the drying flax on her rooftop and told the soldiers that the spies had left in the opposite direction. Then she made a covenant with the men. She told them that she had heard of their God and all the wonders He had done for His people and that her people “were melting in fear because of them”. She promised to remain quiet about their mission and to deliver them to safety if they would agree to spare the lives of her and her family.

By allying herself with God’s people, Rahab was laying her life on the line, but it was a risk she felt worth taking. Being a prostitute and living so closely to the outer walls, she had most likely entertained caravans and travelers from afar. She had been listening and learning, and she had heard stories about the nation of Israel and  how they had been saved by the miracles of their God. Compared to the gods of her people who often demanded cruel rituals, this One loved and cared for His people. She longed to know this God, and when the spies entered the city, this became her divine opportunity.

Can you imagine their initial conversation? I wonder if she told them from the beginning that she had heard of their God and wanted to know Him more. And what a dangerous situation she put herself in as she lowered the men down by a scarlet cord and told them to hide in the hills for three days until the soldiers returned, and then they could go on their way. The men made it clear that in order to make their covenant binding, the same scarlet cord would need to be hanging from the window when they entered the city so they could save her and her family.

The men returned to Joshua and gave him the news from Rahab. Then God gave Joshua instructions for taking the city, told him the walls would collapse, they would destroy everything in the land, and the people would take the city, which happened as God had said. Only Rahab and her family were saved and they lived among God’s people for the remainder of their lives.

God saved Rahab and her family because of her faith. Interestingly, the red cord in this story has been symbolized as the “protection of  the blood of Christ.” Because of the blood Christ shed for us on the cross, we too, live under His same divine protection. We live by faith, as Rahab did, and not by sight. We, too, hope to be found pleasing in God’s eyes.

What a story of how God often uses the least unexpected individuals to carry out His plans! Who would have ever dreamed that Rahab, the harlot, would become the great grandmother of King David and be in the family lineage of Jesus Christ Himself! If she could become such a noted saint of faith and courage and help fulfill God’s plan, then can we not wonder if He too could use us in some small way? Nothing is impossible with God. By faith, we follow Him.

Prayer

Dear God, may we too have the faith and courage to follow you and be found pleasing in your sight. Thank you for the stories from your Word to remind us of the strength and protection we can find in you. Amen

Give God The Glory

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Psalm 29:2

What is the most glorious thing you have ever seen? Was it the beauty of a sunset or a rainbow displayed across the heavens? Was it the sun shining on the ocean waves, or the majesty of the mountains rising above you? Or was it the simple miracle of a newborn child lying in your arms?

Our world is filled with glorious reminders of God’s love for us. In the busyness of life, we may often fail to see or recognize them for the gifts they are, but this doesn’t change who our amazing God is. Our Creator and Sustainer of life is the omniscient God of the Universe, He is filled with glory, and He displays it for all to see.

But what do these words “God’s glory” really mean? Can we even begin to define it? It seems like an impossible task – just as it would be to try to define God Himself. There seems to be no words to sufficiently describe His majesty and greatness. Yet, we might think of His glory as the full revelation of who God is and of all He does. We know that He is holy in His divine nature with all perfection and greatness. We know of His infinite power over the universe and of His abundant goodness to us. In all His glory, God is giving us Himself, but most of all, He is giving us His Son and His saving grace. It is His desire that we rest in the assurance of His presence and receive all the love, mercy, comfort, and strength He has to give.

The greatest blessing that any of us could hope for in this life is to be able to recognize the great beauty in the world He has created, the great good He has to offer, the great power He displays, and the great justice and grace He has to give. Then we will truly know God in all His glory. And yet, we are promised that there is more to come, as He reveals His glory even more in our eternal life to come.

So many reasons we should want to give Him glory as well – not in the sense of adding anything to His essence or to the glory He already has, but to acknowledge His greatness, appreciate His love, and let it fill us with joy and hope. And through His grace and goodness, may our hearts be filled with love for others. May we honor and praise Him. May we come before Him and “worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness”.  These words from the beautiful hymn say it so well:

To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life our redemption to win,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in. 

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice;
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory; great things He hath done

             Prayer 

Our God of the Universe, we praise and glorify your most Holy name. May we lift our hearts and lives to you in gratitude for the love and grace you give. Amen

Carry Each Other’s Burdens

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

We never know what others are “carrying” around, do we? Even within our own circle of family, friends, neighbors, church family, co-workers, or people we associate with in other ways – we can never truly know what is in another person’s heart and what burdens they carry. They may be big or small, but they can create such a heaviness of spirit that can affect every aspect of their lives. We know and understand because we, too, feel the same weight as we deal with the cares of this world. No one is immune. Even though we may think that these concerns should somehow be fewer as we walk with Christ, we have no such promise. Life has enough for all of us.

God has asked us to help each other with these burdens. In fact, he has commanded us to love our neighbor. When He created us, He never intended for us to go through life alone. He created us so we would need the companionship and encouragement of others. He wants our love to flow from us into the lives of those around us.

We can show this love in many ways, but it begins with a compassion and a willingness to be with others through their struggles, just as God is always with us. He comforts us in our difficulties so that we can comfort others in theirs. We should walk with these individuals, commit our time and effort into giving them strength and encouragement, pray for them and give them our love and kindness. We can’t take their burdens away or take them upon ourselves, but we can ease the load as we share God’s love through every kind act we do.

How much it can mean just to know that someone cares and is willing to help through the difficult times. May our eyes be opened to the opportunities around us. May we see those who are hurting and be the source of hope and comfort they need.

Sometimes we too need to be willing to share our own burdens with others and not be too prideful to do so. As difficult as it might be to open ourselves up in such a painful and trusting way, it can bring much strength and encouragement. And if we aren’t willing to ask for their help and accept it, we may miss out on the blessing God has planned for us. May we follow His command to love and “carry each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.”

 Prayer

Our most gracious Lord, be with those who are hurting and dealing with issues that cause heartbreak, pain, and fear. Help us to be a source of strength and love to those around us who are carrying such burdens. Thank you for the blessings of family and friends who support and love us. Amen

May We Have Patience and Trust

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

This has been one of those tough weeks! And one in which my patience has worn thin. It has never been one of my best virtues by any means. Regardless of the situation, waiting has always been a challenge as I get more and more anxious and impatient with the passage of time!

Webster’s original definition of patience is “the suffering of afflictions with a calm, unruffled temper or endurance, without murmuring or fretfulness, from a kind of heroic pride, or from a Christian submission to His divine will.” Calm endurance? Submission to His will? How I wish I could have those qualities. It seems the more I try, the more impatient I become!

We are told in Scripture that patience is a “fruit of the Spirit”.  Obviously, I don’t call upon His power enough to give me the strength and patience I need, and sadly, I must not trust Him enough with my time and the circumstances in my life.

How much I can fret – especially when it comes to waiting and pain. That was a truth I learned about myself even more when I had open heart valve surgery two years ago. The faith I thought I had was deeply tested in those times of intense pain. It was so easy to become discouraged and lose hope in those long hours, days, and weeks. The pain became less as time passed, but the discomfort remained, and I found out how truly difficult it was – for me, anyway – to just trust in God’s perfect will and be patient.

I knew how blessed I was and that each day would bring strength and better health, but that made me feel even worse to think how ungrateful I was when so many others were suffering and even dying. I had the joyous hope of life and I still became disheartened. That was very humbling as I realized how easily I could have these emotions, and it gave me much more compassion for those who are going through challenging health situations. But even more, I so wanted to become more patient and trusting.

Yet, all this time later, I still “fret and murmur”.  About a week and a half ago, I started having some discomfort with a tooth which eventually led to pain and a couple of sleepless nights. Earlier this week, I saw my dentist who set up an appointment with an endodonist to do a root canal, and the earliest he could see me was next week. As the pain increased and the pain pills made me feel even worse, I began to become really impatient, even panicking, as I wondered how I could endure the wait. I even found myself wondering why this was happening when I had tried to be so faithful and trusting the last few months when other difficult times and “afflictions” had arisen.

How easy it is to get to the place where you think you can pat yourself on the back and pride yourself on living a good Christian life, you think you are trying to live in His will, and you especially think you deserve His favor. How humbled I was to realize I had had these thoughts and how disappointed in myself I was, as I thought of how ready I was to question God – especially when He has always been so faithful to me.

Yes, in the last few months, there have been times of anxiety and uncertainty in my life and in the lives of those I love, but He was always there to carry us through. I have been through so much worse than this – with grief, pain, and despair. How could this one thing have shaken my resolve to trust in His love and grace? I realized that I could wait. It might be uncomfortable and an inconvenience, but in the scheme of things, it was such a small thing. All I needed to do was trust in Him. And in the stillness of those moments, I felt His strength.

After two more days, the pain became almost unbearable and I had to give in and call my dentist. Thankfully, his receptionist called several different endodonists and she found one who had had a cancellation. He was a really kind man, and he said that it was a good thing that I came because I had so much infection in the tooth that it would have been a long, miserable weekend. There’s still some discomfort and more work to be done, but the worst is over. I am so very grateful.

Even in this short amount of time, God had given me another opportunity to learn to grow in patience. As I was reading about the fruit of the Spirit and especially about this desired trait, I read this passage: “God is honored by our hope and trust in Him, especially when we rejoice in that hope. He is served, not only by working for Him, but by sitting still quietly, when He calls us to suffer. Patience for God’s sake is true piety. Be reconciled to the place God in His providence puts you, wherever it may be.”  

What a work in progress I am. We are “to rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and be prayerful always.” God, may I learn patience and trust in you.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, thank you for the hope we find in you and for the realization that we can call upon you and your Spirit within us to handle the cares of life. Amen

As a Deer Pants for Water

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ . . . Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42: 1 -3; 

Do you ever feel so completely alone and in despair that you feel your very soul is longing for God’s presence?

How we all sometimes long for our living God! I love these words that David wrote in Psalm 42 as he pictures himself like a deer that is on the run in desperate need of God’s refreshing grace and comfort. His soul is thirsting for God and he is seeking Him with every part of his being. He knows that only our Heavenly Father can quench the thirst of the human heart. Just as a deer instinctively knows where to find water when it’s thirsty, we too, can seek God and know where to find His presence with us if we will only call upon His name.

Life can be such a mystery and God’s ways are not always to be understood, but by His grace, we can get through those times when we feel alone and in despair. Our faith can take away our fears and anxieties as God fills us with His love and peace. We can remember and believe that we need never question where God is, for we have His promise and His assurance that He will never leave nor forsake us. He will never let us go. May we find rest in Him and hope for tomorrow.

Prayer

Dear God, you know that our souls are often filled with despair and we long for your love and peace. We are so grateful that we can call upon your name and trust in your presence with us. We give you all honor and praise. Amen

The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters, he restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

The 23rd Psalm is probably one of the best-known passages in the Bible. Most of us memorized it as a child and it serves as a loving reminder that God is always with us, even in death. What peace, comfort, and assurance these beautiful words can bring us during times of despair.

Perhaps one reason it is so loved is because it is so deeply personal to each of us – as we repeat the words, “The Lord is MY Shepherd”.  Those simple words remind us that He does care about each one of us and He is always with us. We live in such an uncertain world, and any day can bring disaster or unexpected events. And generally, it is the unknown, the unexpected that frightens us the most. But nothing can quiet our souls like knowing that our Shepherd is near to care for us.

As we repeat this prayer, we can feel safe and secure in His arms and know there is nothing else we need or desire. Our Lord is with us. He meets all our needs. We may stumble or fall or even become helpless, but He will always be patient, tender, and loving, and will pick us up and lead us on the right path. He will carry us through the deepest valleys of despair.

To those of us who are his sheep, His authority, power, strength, guidance, peace, and love are such a comfort. He knows our sorrows and takes care of us. No matter what happens in our lives, we know that “His goodness and mercy will follow us and we will dwell with him forever. ”  

Prayer

Dear Lord, how grateful we are that we don’t have to wander through this life alone. We thank you for being our shepherd – for guiding us and protecting us from becoming overburdened by the cares of this world. We thank you for your love, comfort, and saving grace. Amen

One Blessing After Another

From the fullness of His grace, we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. John 1: 16 – 18

It was a long drive home from Nashville after visiting Scott and Emily for a few days. We stopped often to walk and eat (way too many times!), we took turns driving and taking naps, we read and listened to music, and we talked about the things of life and how much we missed our boys.  But still, it seemed to take forever!

Why do trips always seem much more relaxing on the way than on the way back?  But of course, on this one, I always get a little sad when we leave because I know how long it will be before I see them again. But like always, I soon realized it would be good to get home, and I was so grateful for the time we had had together.

I began to think of God’s goodness to us for giving us these special times, and the phrase “count your blessings” came to mind. With all this time on my hands, I began to write down some of our blessings and the many ways God has shown His grace to our family in life-changing ways. It made me realize once again how very different our lives could have been through the years! I felt overwhelmed by His abundant grace and goodness to us – so much more than we deserve. But that is the beauty of God’s mercy and grace. There is no way we could ever earn it, but yet in His love for us, He gives it freely and often.

The Old Testament tells the story of how difficult and impossible it was for God’s people to follow every letter of the law as given through Moses. A Savior was needed to redeem us, so God sent His Son. Through his life and death, Jesus Christ set us free from sin and death. As Christians, we strive to live righteous lives through Him, not because we have to, but because we desire to be obedient and to show our love and gratitude to Him. His grace and truth has already saved us. The gift of the cross, the gift of eternal life is ours from the fullness of His grace.

Our God has been made known to us through His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. It is only through the Son that we can truly know about God’s divine essence and fully understand His love for us. What goodness and mercy He gives.

 Prayer

Dear Lord, we know we can’t begin to remember and list all the ways you have shown your mercy and love to us, but we thank you for the gift of life, for all our many blessings, and for the hope that we can find in you. Amen

God Deserves the Glory and Honor

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

If you were asked, “What are you most proud of in your life?”, what would your response be? My first thought was my family. I can’t imagine any recognition, or glory, or fame, or accomplishment that I could ever do that could surpass the feeling of pride that I have in them.

But wait . . . there’s one even more important. For without God, I would not have this loving family that I cherish. I give Him all the honor and praise for placing them in my life, and I am especially grateful for His love, presence, and saving grace. I can’t even begin to imagine where I would be without it! I am proud to be a child of God and a believer in His Son, Jesus Christ.

We’ve all probably heard this verse many times, but until we stop and reflect on it more closely, we can’t understand its full meaning. Not all pride is considered unhealthy or sinful such as our pride in our families. Nor is a good healthy dose of self-esteem and self-respect a bad thing. God created us and He wants us to feel worth in ourselves and find value and appreciation in others. But our pride should be based on the realization that He is the giver of all things and He deserves the glory and honor, and not us.

The words “pride” and “proud” are found in the Bible 97 times, and should give us some indication how strongly God can oppose it in ourselves. And when we look at the definition of the word more closely, we can understand even more why He finds it so contemptible. Pride: “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity or importance, merit, or superiority; a feeling of honor and self-respect; a personal satisfaction or pleasure taken in one’s own worth, achievement, or success.“ This type of pride is unhealthy and sinful and consists of a spirit of haughtiness and self-importance. It is this pride that causes our own hearts to lift ourselves or others higher onto a pedestal than we do God. We are taking away His glory and placing it where it doesn’t belong.

A prideful attitude is one of the most difficult battles that we all fight, but God, with a promise from His Word, tells us that a prideful heart and a proud spirit are destined to fall and face destruction. We need to ask God to help us search our own hearts to make sure no such attitudes can be found in the deepest recesses of our souls. For C.S. Lewis said it well, “Pride is such a subtle thing. I usually don’t recognize it in myself.”

We need to remind ourselves that we are nothing without God. The success, or recognition, or wealth we might obtain are ours because of the abilities and gifts God gave us. We should never consider others “beneath us in dignity”  for God sees all of us as His children. His answer for pride is humility and the recognition that all we are, all we have, and all we will ever be, comes from Him through His love and grace.

 Prayer

Dear God, may we always remember to give you the honor and praise for the goodness in our lives. For we recognize that without you, we are nothing and would have nothing. Help us to search our hearts for any signs of self-importance or haughtiness and replace them with a heart filled with love and gratitude for you. Amen

How Priceless is God’s Love

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life and in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5 – 9

We just spent a wonderful few days with Scott and Emily in Nashville. And while I was there, I was working on a devotion using these verses. They seemed to sum up all I was feeling about the goodness of God and His great love for us. I was really struggling with trying to find just the right words to give it justice and express my thoughts about our amazing God, when Scott reminded me of an important truth with these words: “Mom, you don’t have to do that. This is one of those passages that can just speak for itself. You can write a few of your thoughts if you like, but this is one that simply needs no explanation!” What a humbling thought! How could I even think I could add in some eloquent way to what God has given us Himself.

How true that this verse from Psalm 36 says it all. It needs nothing more. I am truly grateful for His love, for His faithfulness to us by keeping us in His care, for the opportunities to feast on His goodness and for Him “giving us drink from His river of delights”.  How these beautiful words can soothe our spirits and bring comfort to our hearts. How priceless is His unfailing love!

 Prayer

Dear God, we are  so humbled by your love and goodness to us. Thank you for the simple things in life that we so often take for granted, like spending time with family. May we always be mindful of the blessings you give. Amen

Let the Morning Bring You His Word

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you, I lift up my soul. Psalm 143: 8

I awoke early this morning with several concerns on my mind and heart, and I spent some time with God in prayer. But as I prayed, my concern soon turned to gratitude for the life I have and for all my many blessings. What a way to start a new day, but even more, how grateful I am to begin it with this short, beautiful prayer to the One who hears us and cares about the concerns of our hearts: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you, I lift up my soul.”

Only He can take away the weariness and concerns of our hearts and fill them with His love. If we could only begin each and every day relying on Him and trusting in His love and grace, what a day it would be! I know He will not disappoint or fail us. I feel His comforting presence with me and know that He is with you, as well.

Just as David did in this beautiful Psalm, if our spirits become low and our hearts heavy, we too can ask God to lift us up and give us his favor and kindness. If we seek Him, He will bring us His unfailing love to refresh our spirits and renew our trust in Him. Today will be a good day!

  Prayer

Our most gracious God, thank you for this beautiful morning with the promise of your unfailing love. Show us the way to go, dear Lord, and lift our souls when we become weary. Thank you for your comforting presence and fill our hearts with peace and reassurance. May we be a comfort to those around us and share your love with others. Amen

Walk in Freedom

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119: 45

Today is July 4th! I love what this day represents! I love our country and am so grateful for the freedom we have enjoyed throughout our lives. I love history and have many great memories of teaching the Declaration of Independence, listening to students recite it from memory with such pride that they could do so, and the discussions we would have on the boldness and courage of these early Americans who longed for freedom. I so appreciated the opportunity to teach them about the foundations of our government through the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

I loved their excitement as they learned the meaning of patriotism and sang along to “The Sons of Liberty” song in the movie, Johnny Tremain, and as they discovered the significance of the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” as the brave soldiers watched to see if our flag remained flying at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. And I especially loved their enthusiasm as they sang “The Battle of New Orleans” and learned about the other battles fought on our own soil and abroad to ensure our liberties and those of others throughout the world. I so enjoyed reading and sharing stories with them about the dream and desire of others to come to this great land because of the freedom and opportunities they could experience.

I hope I instilled some pride and love for our country. I hope they remember some of the lessons we learned. But more than anything, I hope they remember that this freedom came at a great price – so many men and women who loved this country and sacrificed so much to give us the liberties we have today. So many lives given so we might continue to live as we do. It’s difficult to comprehend that so many people around the world will never know the blessing of having this freedom – a gift we so often take for granted and don’t stop to appreciate enough.

But even more heartbreaking is the thought that so many don’t know and will never understand the freedom they can have in Christ. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “Let me set you free. And if I set you free, you are absolutely free through and through.” John 8:36 paraphrased)

It is difficult to understand this gift, this freedom, unless you have experienced it , and I have, and am so grateful for it – freedom from being held captive to anger, regret, disappointment, shame, fear, pride, grief, and even pain. For in Him there is strength, hope, comfort, peace, and His all-consuming love. Such a freedom in knowing that He is with us as we go through difficult times, and freedom to know that we don’t have to worry about the future and what lies ahead, no matter how uncertain or frightening it might seem. I know His truths and the life I can have in Him. I know how we can find rest in His love and grace when our souls become weary and burdened.

What freedom to place our lives in His hands and know that He will always carry us through and even give us contentment and joy. We are reminded that this freedom too came at a cost of great sacrifice as God gave His Son for us. We can and “will walk about in freedom” because of His great love for us. On this day, may we not only give Him honor and praise for our country, but even more, may we be grateful for the gift of His grace.

 Prayer

Dear God, how can we ever thank you enough for the blessings we have had in this great nation? Today we celebrate the freedom and opportunities we have each and every day, but even more, may we appreciate the life we have in you. We thank you for your presence in our lives and for the freedom to let go of so many constraints that could control us if not for your love and grace. We praise your most holy name. Amen

Our God Does Not Change

I, the Lord do not change. Malachi 3: 6 -7

A few days ago, my brother, Ralph, and my sister, Ruth, and I had the rare opportunity to spend some time together. We share a close family bond and it’s always such a blessing to have these special times. We had a chance to reconnect, remember past memories, talk about our children and grandchildren, and reflect on our futures. We talked about all the things that have changed in our lifetime, and the changing state of our nation and world. And we talked about the changes that we are seeing in ourselves.

It can all be a little disconcerting and especially overwhelming! But how grateful we are that there is ONE constant in our lives that we can count on to never change and that is our amazing God. He is the same omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, kind, loving God that He has always been. He is the one who daily walks with us, forgives us, strengthens us, loves us, and promises to never leave us. He is a God who embraces change and uses it to further His will and sovereignty. As we face these changes – new experiences and new challenges – we need to keep our eyes on Him and He will give us the courage and strength to look ahead to each new day. What hope and confidence we can have if we trust in Him for our future.

Our God will never change who He is. He will forever be loving, gracious, trustworthy, comforting, healing, and forgiving. We can always count on and believe in His basic truths and promises. He will never change His purpose – to bring people of all nations to Him and restore His kingdom to Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Someone wisely said, “The same Christ who was with them is with you and will be with those who come after us, even to the end of the age. Yesterday he was with our fathers, today He is with you, and He will be with your posterity for evermore.”  What a solid and unshakable foundation of truth on which to base our lives and anchor our souls. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”  He is God’s full and final revelation to mankind. Jesus Christ is God’s plan for bringing all hearts to Him with His love and saving grace.

These are indeed challenging times and we will see even more in our lifetime. But how grateful we can be for His loving presence and for giving us a sure and certain hope for the future. What wonderful promises from a God who will never change no matter what changes around us!

Prayer

Dear God, how thankful we are that in the midst of all the changes in our lives we can count on you to forever be constant and changeless. Thank you for loving us, for giving us the promise of your presence with us always and for your saving grace. Amen

A Call to Prayer

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

There have been many predictions made in my lifetime about Christ’s return to earth. Usually they come and go, and we think little of them. But God has promised that one day He will return.

Yet, we know that Scripture tells us that “no one will know the day or hour – not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son of God, but only the Father Himself.”  We also know that He will be patient because He desires that all will come  to Him. How like our loving God to give us a little reminder every now and then that our hearts need to be ready.

Another one of those loving reminders has come. We have been given “A Call to Prayer”.  The Evangelist Anne Graham Lotz is making it an “urgent call”.  A call for all Christians to pray for those we love, for those in our community, in our nation, and in our world. In an article published on June 30, 2014, in Christian Today, Lotz wrote that “the Lord had revealed to her that the end is near, and that she should begin a national initiative to bring people closer to Christ.”  

In her words: “The time is near”.  She, like so many, obviously has a deep concern for our lost and broken world, and whether it is within weeks, months, or many years, she has no way of knowing and neither do we. But we know from events around us and in our world that evil is rampart, times are changing, and God’s promises are true. The time will come. Just as the birth of Jesus Christ was foretold in Scripture, and it came to be, so will His return. She feels the time for prayer is now.

Lotz also wrote: “One of the things He has impressed on me is that we are living at the end of human history as we know it. In obedience, I am blowing the trumpet…sounding the alarm…issuing a national prayer initiative entitled ‘777: An Urgent Call to Prayer’.  This is all about calling God’s people together to pray, before it’s too late, and judgement falls on our nation.”

The Call is for God’s people to pray for each of the first seven days in the seventh month — July 1st – 7th.  Lotz will post prayers for each of the seven days on her website to unite all Christians in one purpose. (www.annegrahamlotz.com)

May we follow her call and “pray continually” that the hearts of those who don’t know Him will be opened and that all those who profess faith in our Savior and Lord will be ready to receive Him. May we seek Him with all our hearts as we unite to pray for our nation. For He has promised: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7: 14.  With Him, all things are possible.  

*You can read the full article here:  http://www.christiantoday.com/article/billy.grahams.daughter.says.the.end.is.near.calls.for.a.week.of.prayer/38524.htm

Prayer

Our most kind and gracious Father, we know that our lives and our world are in your hands. May we be devoted to you in prayer and faithfulness as we lift up the hearts of our nation to you with the hope that lives will be transformed through the most holy name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

A Cheerful Giver

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7

I recently read this passage, and it made me really look at myself and examine my heart about giving to others:

“Are you so grateful for God’s gifts that you give consistently, willingly, cheerfully, generously, and with compassion? Our offerings to God mean nothing if they are not given with this loving attitude. What God looks for is our pleasure and delight in giving to others out of a thankful heart for the blessings He has given us.”  

Food for thought for all of us, isn’t it? Are you a cheerful giver? Do you always give out of love and the goodness of your heart, or do you give because you feel guilty or pressured to do so? What about in the area of tithing and giving offerings to God? If you are like me – at times I think I do really well and at others – I need a little attitude adjustment!

Scripture tells us that giving should be seen as a privilege and a responsibility to give back to God a part of all He has so graciously and abundantly given to us. Because we love Him, we should want to generously give to Him. And He has commanded us to do so. It can’t be perceived as optional as we are requested to give in one form or another. Our offerings should not be impulsive or haphazard but we should have an orderly system for giving on a regular basis.

This verse reminds us that “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give.”  We should always remember that all things begin with God. He gave us what we have and He wants the best we have to offer. Not equal giving, but equal sacrifice.

Mother Teresa said it well, “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving.” And C.S. Lewis said it another way: “I don’t believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”  Tithing and giving out of the abundance of the gifts God has given us can be a great blessing when we are a cheerful giver.

Giving 10% of our yearly income in tithes has been an appropriate guide for many believers, but others say it is a good place to start, and should be the minimum amount given. And the really important instruction:  We should give in proportion to how we have been blessed. Some have so much more than others, but we can all give out of our abundance. It is  not the amount we give that is truly significant, but it is the spirit in which we give it. It should never be done out of a sense of duty, nor fear nor greed. (Thinking God will prosper us if we do.) But we should give willingly and graciously out of our love and devotion to Him. God isn’t just interested in our money. He wants our hearts and actually, He wants our all.

Prayer

Dear God, forgive us when we aren’t cheerful givers. We know that all things come from you and you have blessed us in so many ways. May our hearts be opened to graciously give to others from the abundance that we have. Amen