The Message of the Cross

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1: 18

The cross . . . Is there a word that has more significance and power than this one?  What image comes to your mind?

Some see the worst picture imaginable of the torture and pain that our Savior, Jesus Christ, endured. Others see it as a beautiful symbol of our faith and the hope of life eternal. Some see it as a sign of sin and death. Others see it as a symbol of life and forgiveness. What does the cross mean to you?

What a mixture of emotions the image of a cross can bring, depending on whether we recognize and appreciate the sacrifice that the Son of God endured for us to receive salvation, or whether it is considered mere “foolishness” by those who don’t choose to believe, or have not heard.

To those of us who do believe, the cross is a powerful reminder of God’s love for us – a love so great that He would give His Son to die for us so that we might live. And it is an everlasting reminder of His infinite forgiveness, power, and grace. Because of the cross, we can live with the assurance that His love and presence is always with us. May we never take such a priceless and loving gift for granted – for the cross is His promise to us of more to come, life eternal with Him.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we are so grateful that we know you and believe in the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ.  We are so grateful that we can live with the assurance that our sins are forgiven, your love and grace will always be sufficient, and that we can spend eternity with you.  Amen

Nothing Is Too Hard For Him

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32: 17

Nothing like ending the summer with a trip to the beach! Our boys are there for a couple of days and they are excited! Last night Kel sent sweet pictures of them playing in the ocean and sand after the sun had gone down. The looks on their faces were priceless! It was a new experience for them to be out on the beach so late, and they were enjoying every minute of it.

What an awesome reminder of God’s power and glory in the magnificent beauty of the ocean, the wide stretch of sand, the darkening blue sky, the setting sun, the stars in the sky, and the light of the moon shimmering on the ocean waves! Where could so much beauty and glory of His creation be seen in one place!

And what a reminder of His providence in our lives with the simple words: “Ah, Sovereign Lord. . .  Nothing is too hard for you.” When we think of how He made the entire universe out of nothing by His sole command and word, how could we ever doubt that with Him all things are possible? 

There is no problem He can’t solve, no heart He can’t soften, no tears He can’t turn to joy. There is nothing that lies beyond His ability to accomplish. If God has the power to do all these things, how can we ever doubt that He also has the ability to reach into our lives and help us with any difficult circumstances we are experiencing. He is the One who can change our hearts and give us hope and strength.

So many times our prayers and our faith are limited by our inability to believe in His power. Fear and doubt began to creep in, our faith weakens, and we lose hope. But God has always been faithful to show us that we can believe in Him and trust in His love and grace with whatever situation comes our way. We have His promises in His Word and we have seen His faithfulness firsthand.

Life can be difficult and so uncertain, and we know what lies ahead for these little boys. Now their lives are filled with such innocence and they feel loved and protected. But this will change as they get older and life gets more complicated. I think this is the reason why it is so sweet and gratifying for us to see them playing on a beach.

We know these simple, carefree days won’t last forever. There will be times when they will have to make difficult decisions, they will face disappointment and rejection, they will feel heartache and pain. But hopefully they are learning that they can always trust that our Sovereign God knows what they are going through and will be with them to love and guide them through the difficult times. They recognize His power and they see His glory. They understand that He can do great and impossible things. Oh, the faith of a child.  May we too trust in Him and believe in His power.

Prayer

Our loving and gracious, all powerful God, thank you for the blessings of life, the beauty of your world, and for the opportunities we are given to enjoy it.  Help us to remember that in your great sovereignty, you know all things and know the reasons why we go through the things we do. But help us also to remember that nothing is too hard for you and you will always be with us, carrying us through. Amen

A Challenge For You!

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1: 5 – 8

We have seen many examples of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” played out on social media in the last few weeks. It has swept the nation with adults and many children taking part and many of you may have accepted the challenge, as well! It has been an amazing thing, and many of you may have even been curious enough to read about how the idea came about. It has definitely been for a good cause – to bring more awareness to ALS, and much money has been raised for research for this horrific disease that devastates so many lives.

Today I have a different type challenge for you, and it is one that I think you will agree is also for a really good cause! Well, actually, it’s not my challenge. I must give God the credit for this original idea that comes from the pages of Scripture, and it is His challenge for each of us, every day – not just on this day!

I’m sure you’ve done “this thing” many times before, but it came to mind as I thought of a dear friend’s birthday today, August 29th. A little over a year ago, her husband sent out invitations a month earlier for a surprise birthday luncheon, and he asked that instead of gifts that each of us “do something nice in her honor for someone or for some organization – ‘acts of kindness’ –  and share them with her on her special day.”

It was the most thoughtful idea for a gift, not just for her, but for all of us who benefitted in such a special way. It was simply amazing to hear all the things that individuals came up with – big and small. Her daughter and son-in-law raised money for the Special Olympics by getting individuals to sponsor him to rappel a tall building, some donated to her favorite charities, some volunteered at local services, and others told about incredible things they had done for neighbors, the elderly, people in need, friends, their church, or community.

As for me, I had difficulty coming up with an idea! I wanted it to be something unique, and simply writing a check didn’t seem worthy of her friendship and kindness to me and others. But finally, I decided I would do “31 days of kindness” for her birthday month of August. I can’t tell you what a gift it ended up being for me!

Spending a month concentrating on doing things for others each and every day, looking for opportunities to do so, and stretching myself to think about what someone would consider “an act of kindness” brought the biggest blessing. They were mostly small, simple things, but things I hoped would make a difference in someone’s day. It felt good to do things for others and sometimes I saw the results with spoken appreciation, and sometimes I didn’t (it wasn’t needed). It put a bounce in my step each day as I looked for ways to bless others. It became not just an assignment I had been tasked to do, but a privilege and a joy.

God desires that we be good to each other, to show brotherly kindness, and to share our love in increasing measure. There is no better way to honor our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, than to share kindness with others.

So on this day, I would like to extend His challenge to you – to do acts of kindness every day. Do them in honor of someone you care about. Do them for yourself to receive the blessing. Do them for others who are in need of a smile and a helping hand, but most of all do them because you want to share God’s love with others.

Most of you probably do them anyway or you do them without even realizing it, but they can be small things – as simple as offering to run an errand, carrying cookies to a shut-in, sending cards to those who are going through a difficult time, making a phone call to someone that you know is lonely, or something bigger – volunteering for a day, carrying someone to an appointment, or paying for a family’s lunch at a local restaurant. But whatever you do, or however you do it, you will know that you have blessed others and you will receive the greater blessing yourself! I hope you will accept His challenge and pass it on to others!

Happy Birthday, my friend, and today, my acts of kindness will be in honor of you!

Prayer

Dear Lord, help us to remember to do little things to show our kindness to others, not just to those who mean so much to us, but to all those around us. May we never become too busy or too pre-occupied with life that we forget to share your love and grace. For in doing so, we serve you.  Amen 

In the Beginning

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” God saw the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1: 1 – 3

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. Genesis 1: 31

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. Genesis 2: 1 – 2

Sometimes we just need to start at the beginning to fully understand a story, don’t we? How rarely we probably turn to Genesis 1 and read the complete story of creation! Yet, we all know what an amazing and beautiful story it is.

With what awe and wonder we think of God speaking the universe into existence. With what greatness and power He created this magnificent world of ours out of nothing. And even more incredible and ever so humbling, is the thought that He lovingly made each of us as His masterpiece of design, and we have been a part of His plan from the very beginning. How incomprehensible it is to consider that He cares enough about each one of us to know where we are in this vast universe and He blesses us with His presence and grace.

These simple words, “In the beginning, God. . .” lays the foundation for everything else to come. We see that God was before all things and the source of all things. He brought the world into being as a beautiful place for us. And furthermore, He made it abundantly clear that everything He has created has been good – including one of His greatest gifts to us, which is His story – this story – from beginning to end, as recorded in His Word, the Bible. We know from the pages of Scripture that our  triune God was overseeing creation – our God, the Father; the Holy Spirit who “was hovering over the waters” protecting all God had made; and His Son, who was present with His Father from the beginning. And we even see the foreshadowing or foretelling of the coming of His Son to earth, who would bring “light into the world” to dispel the darkness.

We know how the story unfolds and how God said in Genesis 1: 26, “Let us make man in our image and let him rule over the earth.” And how later, God created a companion for him. In Genesis 2 and 3, we see how sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and profoundly changed God’s creation.

But God was not finished, as the Old Testament reveals the need for His plan to redeem our sinful world by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, with His saving grace. And the New Testament tells how the world was changed by His life and death on the cross. With redemption will eventually come the ultimate climax of His story – a kingdom for all who believe in this Savior of the world.

It all began with God, and it will end with God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. His plan will unfold, and hopefully, we will become a part of His never ending, final chapter for all eternity.

Prayer

Our Heavenly Father, thank you for the gifts of your creation. May we never fail to offer you praise for giving us life, the gift of your Son, and the promise of eternal life with you. Amen

Lean Not on Our Own Understanding

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5 – 6

Don’t you sometimes become so weary and burdened as you listen to the news each day? I do! Our world seems in such a “mess”, and if you’re like me, you can”t help but be concerned and saddened.

It is heartbreaking to think of what so many are being forced to endure, and our minds simply can’t comprehend the horror of it all. It’s as if we want to cry out to God and ask where He is, just as the prophet Habakkuk did over 2000 years ago when the kingdom of Judah was going through troubled times. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.” (Habakkuk 1: 1- 4) 

Habakkuk felt as if God was being strangely silent and inactive, just as many people feel He is today. But in truth, God wasn’t absent or indifferent then; nor is He now. He was at work and He had a plan to open the eyes of His people and bring them to Him.

I often have to remind myself of that truth – that God sees and knows all that is going on around us. He is on His throne and He is actively working. We have His promise that He will take all of the evil and injustices and use them for His good. We know that He has an eternal plan just as He did then, and this should bring us much comfort.

We must remember that things are not always as they seem – especially from our perspective. We can’t see the whole picture as God does. He is always at work, it is always according to his purpose, and He will bring divine order out of chaos. He understands how difficult it is for us to patiently endure the turmoil and evil around us, but He has promised that He will render justice to those who deserve it, and He will keep us near to Him.

This verse is one of the most comforting verses in all of Scripture. It can bring such peace and hope to our anxious souls as it reminds us not to “lean on our own understanding” but to trust in Him. If we look to what we know and try to understand with our own limited wisdom, we become weak and the circumstances around us seem overwhelming. But if we focus on God, His sovereignty and power, His love and grace, it all becomes much easier to leave our concerns with Him.

We have no way of knowing what the future holds, but we know who holds our future, and that is our loving God. We must have faith in Him, and remember that He has promised that no matter how many terrible events occur around us, no matter what happens in our own lives, there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from His love and presence. He understands our anxieties, our fears, and our need for His strength and His peace to carry us through these trying times, and He longs to be our comfort and our refuge. May we trust in Him.

 Prayer

Our most sovereign God, our world seems in such chaos, but it brings much comfort to know that you are actively working to accomplish your purpose in our world and in our lives, and that we can trust in you. We ask that you be with those who are living in such dangerous, difficult situations and that your love and peace be upon them. Amen 

The God of All Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of  compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4

Can you think of a time in your life when you clearly felt the love and comfort of God calming your spirit and soothing your soul? It was an experience when you knew without a doubt that it was Him, because you knew that there was no other way or explanation for how you could have had the strength to handle the situation without His abiding love. You felt His strength, His peace, His comfort all around you and you felt His presence with you.

You probably remember these experiences as vividly as I do, for they were the most amazing gift at the time, and we can look back on them with the most grateful heart.

Or perhaps, you have been in a difficult situation when one or more individuals may have come in your path when you needed them most to help encourage and console you through a trying ordeal. You may have not even known them, but it was as if they knew exactly what words you needed to hear and how to help you make the decisions you needed to make. You felt their love and their strength, you were so grateful for their presence, and you wondered how you would have gotten through it without them. We never know when God will send just the assistance we need to help us through the trying times.

Praise be to our amazing, sovereign God! We need to keep our eyes, heart, and hope on our “Father of compassion“, who stands ready to give us His endless tenderness, understanding, and perfect love. Yet, this merciful God longs to give this love to everyone. He doesn’t just comfort us for our own good. He entrusts His comfort to us so that we might share it with others.

Going through these times of adversity gives us a new compassion for others. If we have experienced His grace, we will want to share His comfort and peace with those who are suffering – especially with those who may not know our God well enough to draw directly from His grace and comfort. As they see our love and compassion for them, we pray they too will be drawn to know this God who can bring such comfort and hope.

May we never forget how “the God of all comfort” understands our deepest sorrows, our most hurtful rejections, and our most painful grief. May we always seek Him, be grateful for the comfort He provides, and allow His Spirit to lead us to console others. What a gift it will be for us to give!

Prayer

Dear God, we thank you for the comfort and love you so unconditionally provide in our times of greatest need.  May we in turn share your comfort with others and may they see your love and grace in us and come to know you. Amen

God is Our Tower of Strength

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18: 10

Our little guys had a great first few days of school. All went well and they are happy and ready to begin the year! But on Friday afternoon and Saturday, they were absolutely exhausted! Kel offered to take them out for pizza, to take them swimming (which they never turn down), to take them to a ball game, and to get ice cream, but they were not interested! They were perfectly happy just being at home, playing quietly, and being lazy. They had no desire to do anything else!

I think they just needed the security of home and time spent with family. They just wanted to relish the routine, the normalcy of home, and rest in the security of their familiar surroundings. For a short time, they wanted, and needed, to put aside the anxiety of new, uncertain experiences and just rest in what they knew to be safe and secure. Then feeling much loved, rested, and confident, they will be ready to return to school on Monday morning filled with eager anticipation!

Don’t we all sometimes feel the same way? We just want to escape from the world and flee the struggles, the fears, the pain, and the uncertainties of life. How we would love to close ourselves off inside our homes, away from all those things that cause us the most anxiety, and just feel at peace – safe, secure, and free from all life’s cares – at least for just a little while. But even then, inside the comfort and security of those walls, we wouldn’t be able to escape the problems which often seem overwhelming and hopeless, or the pain in our hearts or bodies that cause despair. We wouldn’t be able to forget the evil and injustices that are going on throughout the world. Nor would it change the lack of love, mercy, and kindness in so many hearts, or our own desire to just rest our souls and be away from it all.

During these times, we may look within ourselves to try to find our own courage, determination, and strength to go on. Or we may look to the sympathies and kindness of those close to us to give us their love and encouragement to help us when we don’t seem able to do it alone. But gratefully, there is an even greater refuge that we often overlook in times of our greatest need, and that is resting in God’s loving presence. There is only one source of life and “a strong tower” of defense to help us withstand whatever comes our way, and that is “the mighty name of our Lord”.

He knows what we are facing, He understands our pain and the loss of what is precious and valuable to us, He knows how to relieve and restore our hurting spirits, and He knows how to strengthen us to go forward in faith and hope. He is our “strong tower” who is waiting for us to “run to” the protection and security we need and can find in Him.

As we seek Him and go before Him with our fervent prayers, He will hear the concerns of our hearts and respond with His love, assurance, and strength. Then, we too, will be ready to go back out into the world with confidence as we face an uncertain future and the many life experiences that lie ahead. But how grateful we can be to have the assurance that we can always return to His loving presence when we need it most!

Prayer  

Our almighty and gracious God, we thank you for being our tower of strength in times of weakness. We thank you for the assurance of your love to go forward with hope and determination. We honor your most holy name. Amen 

The Name of the Lord is to Be Praised

Praise the Lord. Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113: 1 – 3 

What a beautiful verse and one that can certainly stand on its own! God alone is worthy of our devotion, praise, and worship.

We are called to worship Him with every fiber of our being, with every thought and deed – every day of our lives – “from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” We are reminded that praising and worshiping God is not just an action in which we are singing songs, being in church, or reading His Word. Praising and worshiping God is a continuous condition of the heart, an expression of our love and complete awe in Him, with a willingness to exalt Him for His greatness, power, and glory “both now and forevermore”. 

Today as we think about His great love and goodness to us, may we reflect on what He means to each of us. As we “praise the name of the Lord“, may we think about the many different names and titles given to God, our Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and His Wonderful Counselor, the Holy Spirit. Out of all the titles given in Scripture, each one reveals different attributes of our loving God. As we read a few of them, may we think about the ones that speak to us in a personal way – as God has most revealed Himself to us. And may we be grateful for each one.

El Shaddai (Almighty God) . . . Yahweh (Our Lord and Master) . . .  Abba (Father) . . . Our Creator . . . Sustainer of Life. . . Savior . . . The Good Shepherd . . . King of Kings . . . Comforter . . . Immanuel (God is with us) . . . Teacher . . . Redeemer . . . Shield . . . Rock . . . Bread of Life . . . Living God . . . Prince of Peace . . . Righteous One . . . Lamb of God . . . Friend . . . Light of the World . . . Lord of Lords . . . Song of Our Hearts . . . The Alpha and Omega . .  . The Way, the Truth, and the Life . . . Bright and Morning Star . . . Guide . . . Jehovah . . . Living Water . . . Our Everlasting God . . . Physician . . . Potter . . . Most High God . . . The Passover Lamb . . . The Spirit of the Lord . . . Our Sovereign God . . . The Deliverer . . . Messiah . . . Adonai (Lord and Master) . . . The Word of Life . . . The Most Holy One . . . The Gentle Healer . . . and our Most Loving and Merciful God.

 Prayer

Our most gracious God, we thank you for all the many ways you show your love and faithfulness to us. May we honor you always with our most heartfelt worship and devotion. Amen

Trust and Obey

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” John 14: 23 – 24

Isn’t it amazing how old memories just rise to the surface from time to time? Recently someone posted someone singing an old hymn, and it reminded me of how much my mother loved those old familiar songs! I remember her telling me how she never really had any interest in learning to play the piano as a child, but her sister had taken a few lessons and taught her some of the notes. She then basically taught herself to play 3 of her favorite songs using just those notes.

I can still see her so vividly, sitting at the piano while she played and sang, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, and this one, “Trust and Obey”:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

(Refrain)Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

(Refrain):

What a beautiful reminder that God does desire our trust and obedience. Second only to loving Him, this is His priority for our lives. And in this verse, Jesus tells us that the proof of our love for Him is our obedience to Him. Are we obeying His commands to us, following His teachings, doing what He tells us to do? He wants us to fully experience His presence and His love in our lives and by doing so, we must obey His will. As the words from the song remind us, “There’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Often it is difficult to know just what His will is, but we can obey His truths revealed to us in Scripture and what His Spirit lays on our hearts. Obeying Him takes courage as we so often want to do things our own way and sometimes His way differs from what the world expects of us. It may not make sense from our own perspective, but we can trust and believe that He can and will enable us to do whatever He is asking of us. Our amazing God can do extraordinary things we never thought possible through us. And when we do obey Him, we can know that He will bless us with His goodness and love. May we obey Him out of our deep love for Him and be faithful in all we do.

Prayer

Dear Lord, we thank you for loving us so unconditionally and graciously. How difficult it is for us to always be obedient to you. Help us to have the strength and confidence in you to be faithful to your will, to trust in your grace, and to be more obedient. Amen 

There is Strength in Our Joy

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8: 10

Don’t you love the sun shining through after a summer storm? The air feels so much fresher, everything looks so much greener and more alive, the raindrops sparkle like gems on the leaves and the flowers, and the birds sing so much sweeter! After the darkness comes the light.

Aren’t our tears the same way when after a time of sadness, our hearts are cleansed and we are able to see God’s hope shining through once again? In Psalm 30:5, we read, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”.  So many times our joy and sorrow seem to walk one before the other. For how can we know sorrow if we haven’t known joy first? And how can we know true joy if there hasn’t been sadness? How grateful we can be that there is always the promise of joy in the future in the midst of our tears as we lean upon our loving God.

There is no more beautiful example of this than in Nehemiah, Chapter 8.  It is said to be “one of the most joyful and magnificent celebrations of the work of God in the Old Testament.” During this time, God’s people have been allowed to return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity, the city of Jerusalem has been rebuilt, and Nehemiah, the Persian king’s cupbearer, received permission to return and rebuild the city gates and walls to secure their safety.

When this was completed, Ezra, the priest and scribe stood before the people with the scroll of the Word of God, and read to them “from daybreak to noon. . . Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and the people bowed down and worshiped Him with their faces to the ground”.

As they listened, they began to weep as they realized the grief their waywardness had brought to God. They repented sorrowfully for turning their backs on Him when He had provided for them in such loving, abundant ways.

Then Nehemiah, who had become their governor, said these words to them: “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  

As they were reminded of God’s provisions and blessings upon them, their hearts became filled with overwhelming joy. They began to understand what it meant to be forgiven, cleansed, accepted, and even loved after all their sinfulness. They became conscious of their worth before God and they felt confident of facing an uncertain future, but one with Him by their side. It gave them a sense of well-being, protection, approval, and freedom from all of life’s cares. And with these revelations came the most satisfying joy and an empowering strength they had never known.

This joy and, consequently, its strength can be ours, as well. We are not left on our own to find this much desired joy in our lives. God gives it to us through His love for us. It is not a fleeting emotion that comes and goes as happiness often does, but it is a life force that lives within us and gives us peace and contentment. All the attributes that make up who God is can bring well-springs of joy to our hearts. Being in awe of His greatness and His love for us for all eternity is enough to make our eyes overflow with tears of gratitude.

In contemplating who God is and finding joy in His presence, we become stronger. We realize that He is our rock, our fortress,and the stability in our lives that holds us grounded and secure. We realize that we can stand firm in assurance and trust that He will always be with us no matter what we face. It overrides our fear and worry, and the joy flows through our spirits with a supernatural strength. What a beautiful promise that  can be ours – “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”  

 Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, thank you for the inexpressible joy, peace, and strength we can find in you. May we keep your Word and its truths close to our hearts, share it with others, and always rely on your loving presence. Amen

Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4: 9 – 11

Proverbs – so much timeless wisdom in one little book! There isn’t much it doesn’t cover about life, but how like our God to want us to have a handbook for living it to the fullest! And what a reminder that He doesn’t just care about the big things in our lives that seem so important to us, but He cares about the little things, as well.

I love this advice: “Two are better than one!”  Together we can do so much more – easier, faster, and better! And how blessed we are to have those individuals in our lives whom we know we can count on, who will give us emotional and physical warmth in this cold, cruel world of ours, who will encourage and strengthen us, and who will share in our joys and sorrows. Whether it’s a spouse, good friend, sibling, other family member, or neighbor, what a gift it is to have someone we can depend on and trust – someone who is reliable, responsible, solid, steady, loving, kind, who makes us laugh, who holds us while we cry, who honors us, and who cares about our well-being and happiness. What a gift to have such wonderful, loving relationships!

I can’t even fathom the heartache and loneliness a person must feel who goes through the difficult times of life without someone by his/her side. We all need someone to love and who we know cares about us. May we be those same committed and faithful companions in return, and may we be more aware of those around us who might be in need of a friend or a loving hand. May we be individuals that others can trust and look to in their time of need and to remind them of God’s love and faithfulness.

Prayer 

Dear God, grant us your grace to continue to be loving and dedicated spouses, friends, and family members to each other, but especially may we be so to those who are lonely and in need. We thank you for those special people you have placed in our lives who support, encourage, and add joy to our lives. Amen

Living a Life For Him

Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other. Mark 9:50

Have you ever thought about the influence you may have on others? Have you ever wondered if people are watching you and the way you live your life? Some might even be checking for our “saltiness”!

In this particular verse, Jesus tells us to have salt in yourselves”. It is an expression that is rarely used or heard today, but interestingly the word “salt” is found over 40 times in Scripture. Yet, here, Jesus gives no explicit explanation or image to help us with its meaning.

To fully understand, we need to recognize salt’s use and value in early biblical cultures, as well as, today. Salt now, as then, is a necessity of life. Our bodies require a certain amount and it is important as a seasoning for our food. It was also once used as a preservative for meat, a disinfectant for cleansing, and often as a unit of exchange or payment.

Many times Jesus referred to his disciples as “the salt of the earth, meaning they should have a positive influence on the world by the way they lived their lives. He was telling them that they were just like “salt” in that they too were of infinite value, they too had to be a “preservative” for the Christian faith, and they also could not lose their usefulness in working for His Kingdom.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we too must continue to keep our “saltiness”. We must show others what living a life for Him is all about as they see our faith, mercy, and compassion. We are the means for spreading His love and message of hope to the world.

“Have salt in yourselves” means to live a life for God – one filled with love, wisdom, understanding, faithfulness, obedience, value, and permanence. Just as salt cannot become contaminated with dirt or other impurities, neither can our lives become contaminated by the world. If so, then our “salt” loses its value and we become less effective in showing others the way to Him.

May we be who God would have us be, and “be at peace with each other”living for Him and sharing His love.

Prayer

Dear Lord, what truths we can find in your Word. Help us to be the individuals you desire us to be and to share your message of love and grace with the world. Amen

Living With Confidence

 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17: 7 – 8

We spent the last couple of days with our boys and yesterday Kelly took Cole to his orientation for Kindergarten and then later took Miles to his for 2nd grade. They were a little shy about giving us many details about this first “back to school” experience. If anything, it seemed to increase their anxiety and excitement level – all at the same time!  Cole wonders if he will remember where his classroom is, and Miles, if he will make new friends since none of his old ones will be in his class.

On our way home, I kept thinking about those little minds and what was going through their heads! I said prayers that they would feel confident in who they are, would feel at ease with their teachers and classmates, would make friends, they would have a good year, and most of all that they would know that they are safe and much loved.

Today is their big day and our thoughts will be with them all day!  We can’t wait for their phone call after school to hear how it went!

We adults sometimes forget what a big deal this is for kids each year as they face these new situations and how important it is for them to feel confident and assured! Don’t we all need that self-confidence? How often we let our feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy derail our strength to do not only the normal things, but the amazing, extraordinary things God has planned for us. How often circumstances in life can make us feel less than we are – less valuable and less worthy than He made us to be!

Yet, His desire is for all of us to feel confident and self assured, but most of all He wants us to feel loved. He wants us to live lives filled with love, laughter, and acceptance of who we are. And if we look to Him, He is committed to guiding us through every uncomfortable situation and giving us that unshakable confidence, hope, and trust in Him.

Don’t we all want to be that “tree” that is strong and able to bear fruit? We want others to see that trust and confidence we have placed in His provisions for our lives. Our hearts know that God will take care of every need, just as He does for the tree near a stream that receives water from its roots and does not wilt when the heat comes.

But many times, we “wilt”. We  become fearful and anxious under the strain of difficult situations. If we could only live with the gift of walking with Him in faith and having the confidence of knowing He will always be with us to carry us through.

May we let Him encourage our hearts and remember the beautiful verse from Philippians 4: 13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”   

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, help us to live with confidence and assurance in your love for us. May we realize that we can’t be the strong individuals you made us to be without your presence and guidance with us. We thank you  for the gift of life and all its many blessings. Amen 

Righteous Through Faith

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6: 14 – 15 

As Christians, one of the strongest attacks on our faith can come from our own hearts – as we deal with our own unworthiness. During certain times for whatever reasons, we may begin to feel as if we don’t deserve His blessings or grace upon us. And especially during the difficult times when He hasn’t answered our prayers and when we don’t feel His presence, we may even begin to wonder if  He has abandoned us. We may feel as if He is angry with us or is even punishing us for our lack of obedience and faithfulness to Him, and we begin to live with a sense of guilt, with feelings of unworthiness and even hopelessness. For a short time, we may have lost the assurance of His love and presence with us.

Then hopefully, our hearts return to Him as we remember God’s truths and His promises to us, for one thing we can count on is that He will never leave us nor forsake us. His promises to us are for all eternity.

One example of His promise to His people was when God made a covenant with Abraham to make him the father of a great nation through his offspring. (Even though he was 75 at the time and didn’t have a son, Isaac, until 25 years later – at the age of 99). Abraham began to doubt and question God, but when God reassured him once again, “Abraham believed the Lord and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

Abraham believed God and trusted Him, and because he did, God blessed him. Abraham was not perfect. He didn’t earn favor with God by being a good man, wise, compassionate, or even godly. He earned righteousness by believing God and by having faith in Him.

This is our story too. We can’t earn God’s favor or the gift of eternal life through moral thinking, the works we do, or through religious exercises such as attending church and reading the Bible, or by even serving God. We can only be saved and declared righteous through our FAITH and BELIEF in Him.

Christ is the foundation of our righteous standing before God – our acceptance before Him. If we are wearing “the breastplate of righteousness“, we can rest secure that our hearts and all that we are, will be secure in Him. We don’t have to stand on our own merits. We never could. We never can. We come to Him through the grace of Christ. We can’t stand on our own righteousness, but we can stand on His. If we always look to Him and stand firm in following His truths and trust Him in faith, we can have the peace and assurance of knowing we belong to Him and His loving presence will always be with us.

Prayer

Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for loving us and for sending your Son to save us. Help us to grow in faith and to believe in your promises to us that are found in your Word. Thank you for your unconditional love and faithfulness. Amen

I Will Exalt Him

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15: 2

The Lord is my strength and my song. Could there be a more beautiful expression of what God means to us? And could there be a more appropriate one for this Sunday morning as we reflect on God’s goodness to us? How grateful we can be for the blessings of this past week and for the strength He gave us to face the daily challenges that came before us. Did we stop to thank Him enough? Did we find joy in His presence and was He indeed the song in our hearts?

This verse comes from one of the most ancient of songs, known as the “The Song of Moses” as found in Exodus 15 and was a passage of praise and thanksgiving. It was sung by Moses and the Israelites as they sought to honor God, to exalt His most holy name, to praise Him for His sovereign care, and to celebrate His presence with them as they escaped from Egyptian captivity and safely crossed the parted Red Sea. When they saw the great power God had displayed, they put their trust in Him and longed to glorify Him with all their hearts, minds, and souls.

My God, my strength, my song, my salvation, my father’s God – words so personal to describe their Lord. This verse included words so expressive that they were later borrowed by the Psalmist David in Psalm 118: 14 and by the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 12:2 to convey their sense of the greatness of God and all He had done for His people.

Just as these thankful believers did, may we too rejoice in God’s greatness. How weak and frail we are on our own, but how He strengthens us with His grace. We are often filled with so much sadness and despair over life and He comforts us in our sorrow. We face death, yet He is our eternal hope for the future. And how grateful we can be that each one of us can make the same claim about our amazing God: “He is my strength, my song, and my salvation. He is my God  and I will exalt him. “

Prayer

Our Almighty God, what wondrous things you have done throughout all generations to show your power and your grace. We thank you for the joy and strength we can find in your love for us. May we exalt your most holy name on this day and every day. Amen  

A Servant Heart

Be sure to fear (respect) the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24

We all serve others. Many get much joy and satisfaction from helping others while some feel their service is a duty and they resent the time and efforts required of them. Some do service for recognition or reward. Others do it from the heart out of pure love and kindness, and they desire no praise or recognition of any kind.

Some acts of service can be on a grand scale and the results, life changing for many people. Others, such as those we do in our own homes, can feel tedious and monotonous and we sometimes wonder if they make any difference at all.

Regardless of the reason, each one of us is a servant to others in some way. Think about how much time we all serve others as wives, husbands, parents, grandparents, friends, church members, professionals, neighbors, volunteers, laborers, etc. And service to others who are in need is a worthy deed. It is what God has asked us to do and what Jesus taught us by example. But the question becomes, are we merely doing acts of service because we are expected to, or do we truly have a loving, willing, servant heart? There is a huge difference, especially in God’s eyes!

Sometimes when we have put much time, effort, and even money into helping someone, we feel their sincere gratitude for our ability to provide the help they need. It does our hearts good to know that we have made a difference in their lives and that we have done a good thing. It feels gratifying and fulfilling.

But then at other times, we may not experience those feelings. The individuals we have helped don’t seem to appreciate that what we have done was out of love or concern for them, and they don’t even seem to recognize our hard work, sacrifice, and the time and effort we put into our service to them. We may get frustrated or discouraged when those we are serving don’t seem to respond as we would hope or expect. And our hearts may not be as willing to serve others again.

It may be difficult to feel good about serving those who don’t seem to appreciate what we have done for them, but we are to remember that God’s first commandments to us are to love Him and our neighbors. We aren’t to spend our lives as selfish, isolated beings. We need to spend our time doing things that benefit others. We need to serve willingly, make sacrifices, undergo inconveniences, and relinquish some of our time on others’ behalf.

Having a servant heart for Christ requires an attitude of love for our God and a desire to be like Him. It is a kind of service that seeks satisfaction from knowing that by serving others we are serving Him. We may or may not receive gratitude or acknowledgement in return, but we can find comfort in knowing that God may have placed us where we were needed at the time. And we can have the satisfaction of knowing that we made a difference in their lives.

This lesson reminds us that we should follow God’s example and keep on serving. We should continue to bless others with our time and efforts just as He continues to be faithful to bless us. God keeps loving, He keeps giving, and He keeps His eyes on us. And we need to keep loving, keep serving, and keep our eyes on Him.

We need to remember that every act of service we render, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is an act of service to Him. People may not notice, but God does, and He is our strength and motivation to continue. Our goal is to have “A Servant Heart”- one filled with love, a willingness to help and give it our all, and one dedicated to serving Him.

 Prayer

Dear God, we ask that you give us a servant heart and that you continue to give us your compassion, love, and grace so that we might better serve others. May we keep our eyes lifted to you and be reminded that in loving others we are showing our love and gratitude to you. Amen

Be True to Yourself

If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in Himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Galatians 6: 3 – 5 

Remember this Latin phrase: “Esse Quam Videri “which means “To be rather than to seem”?  It’s a notable quote that most people recognize, but it’s one in which we seldom stop and think about its true meaning.

If we were to put it in today’s language, we would probably translate it to mean, we need to “keep it real” – to be true to ourselves and to be who we are. We all probably know people who constantly pretend that they are “something” they are not. They not only deceive others, but sometimes they may even deceive themselves. And then there are others who haven’t even put themselves to the test to see who they really are!

In this passage to the new believers in Galatia, Paul is telling them about the good lives God desires them to have. He reminds them that they should never pretend to be something that they are not, but that they should always try to live up to the standards God has set for them – to be the best they can be with what they have been given. He reminds them that without risks, they can never truly know what God has gifted them to do – that they should test themselves to see what actual abilities and talents they possess that they might not even be aware of. God doesn’t want us to use others as our standard for comparing ourselves, but to find what we do best, “carry our own load” and take pride in who we are.

What a timely message for us, as well. By testing ourselves and seeing who God made us to be, we can experience much more joy and satisfaction in knowing what we can do, instead of what we can’t. God gave each of us our individual abilities and He did not intend for us to make comparisons with others, but to gratefully accept our own talents and abilities and use them to serve others. And by accepting those things we can’t do, it might help us to become much more compassionate and willing to help others with the things we can! And who knows what new talents we will find that we never even knew we had!

We need to keep it real. Be true to ourselves and be who we are!

Prayer

Dear God, what lessons you teach us in your Word. What a good reminder that we need to always be the best we can be and that may mean stepping out of our comfort zone and trying new things. Help us not to constantly compare ourselves with others, but to accept who we are and find joy and satisfaction in using the talents and abilities you have given us to serve you. Amen

Having the Faith of a Child

 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Matthew 11: 25

Miles and Cole do love to learn about space and all the heavenly objects in the skies! Many times we have looked at pictures and read about each of them. I was talking to them on the phone and telling them about the big Super moon that occurred on Sunday night. I told them how it was the biggest and brightest full moon of 2014 and that it occurs when the moon is full and it passes closest to earth. I told them I had read that it was supposed to appear 30% brighter and 14 times larger than a normal full moon and that the Perseid Meteor shower was to occur at the same time to light up the night sky.

I said, “Isn’t that the most amazing thing!” Cole simply replied in a very matter of fact voice, “Yeah, but you know, Nan, God can do all those things!”  

He needed no further explanation than that! The eyes, mind, and heart of a child! What wisdom they possess and what knowledge they can teach us about the wonders and mysteries of life.

Jesus understood the mind of a child and how it only took simple faith to believe in Him. Shortly after choosing His 12 disciples, Jesus began to preach and teach in the towns of Galilee. In two of those locations, He was ignored and rejected by the people, even after they had heard His Gospel message and seen the miracles He had performed. Yet, He still prayed this prayer of thanksgiving to His Father.

Even in the midst of His despair at their failure to believe in Him as the Son of God who had come into the world as their Redeemer and Savior, He trusted His Father in all His wisdom, power, glory, and goodness. He knew the truths of the Gospel would be clear to all who would choose to believe by faith – not by wisdom or intelligence and deep insight into the mysteries of God – but merely by faith. Jesus Christ was offering the blessings of His saving grace and the gift of eternal life, but many chose not to believe and accept what could so easily have been theirs.

He understood that many that stood before Him in these Galilean cities were considered “wise and learned” men, but yet they would remain strangers to the Gospel because of their failure to see and accept what was before them. Just as is true today, individuals often reject the mysteries of God because they can’t understand and accept the truths before them of God’s existence. And what blessings they miss out on.

Our amazing God has revealed these things to little children and how easily they accept without question. May we, too, have the simple faith of a child and believe in His power and glory.

 Prayer

We praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing the truths of your Word and your promises to us. Thank you for the faith of a child to accept that which we cannot understand, but believe to be true, because we see evidence of your presence around us each and every day. Amen

I Thank My God For You

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1: 3 – 5

Think of all the times you have been involved with a group of people for a common goal and how you formed a bond with those individuals. Relationships formed, sometimes lasting as lifelong friendships. Groups such as athletic teams, group projects, fund-raising activities, health or rehab programs, different types of classes or clubs, and community organizations. A common goal brought you together and you realized you needed each other for cooperation, support, and encouragement in helping to bring about your end results.

All of these activities most likely brought satisfaction and many fond memories, but none more so than when we join with others to learn about or share the Word of Christ. We all know the love and bond of friendship we have formed with members of different churches we have been involved in throughout our lives. So many individuals stand out who have meant so much to us in our own spiritual growth and have loved us through so many life experiences.

I can name so many men and women who have helped my faith to grow and even children, in their sweet innocence, through whom I have learned so much about our amazing God. I was very blessed to be a part of a very special group of women in a Ladies Bible Study for over 10 years, and it was the most amazing experience as we delved into God’s Word together.

We all have probably been a part of such groups and have heard stories of so many wonderful mission trips where friendships formed all over the world, of youth groups who developed such close bonds, of prayer groups, choirs, Sunday School classes, and children’s mission groups who shared one common goal. Something special happens when we join with others “in partnership in the gospel”. We think of and remember these people with much love, gratitude, prayer, and joy.

Paul had these same feelings for the early believers in the church of Corinth as we see in this verse. Not only did he have strong feelings for them, but he wanted them to know of his appreciation for them. They shared in his love of Christ and in his efforts to carry forth the gospel through their works in their own church. They prayed for his well-being and his ministry, financially supported his efforts, and stood by him while he was imprisoned for teaching his beliefs. He understood their love and sacrifices for him and that knowledge filled him with joy and gratitude even during the difficult times.

Even though I don’t know many of you, I often think of you as “partnering with me” as we share a love for God’s Word. When I started this blog, I wanted to do something in return for all the blessings God has given me and my family. I felt I wasn’t a speaker, nor was I physically able to go on mission trips or do the work I would like to do to serve Him.

After doing a year of devotions for my children, Bob encouraged me to try to write a devotional blog, and this became my ministry – to share Scripture verses and my love of God with you. It has been a privilege and a joy to be able to do so, and I pray that I have given you food for thought or perhaps a word of comfort you might have needed on a particular day. I am so grateful for your encouragement and support and for all the times that you have shared a devotion with someone else. In doing so, you too are a part of this small ministry – as we pass on a verse and message about His love which might bring someone closer to God. Thank you for sharing this journey with me as we seek to know Him more and share His grace with others.

“I thank my God for you and remember you in my prayers.” May God bless you always.

Prayer

Dear God, we are so grateful for all those who have meant so much to us on this walk of faith throughout our lives. Help us to “partner together” as we learn more about your love and grace and share it with others. Amen

Written on Our Hearts

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3: 3 – 4

I will always remember the time before our 26th anniversary! I call it Part II.

We had just experienced several difficult months of trying to accept Bob’s unexpected diagnosis of cardiomyopathy – a condition in which his heart had become enlarged and weakened. There had been talk of the possibility of sudden death, a heart transplant, a defibrillator, hospitalizations, weakness, and the inability to live a normal life. The future looked uncertain and scary, and to say the least, it shook up our otherwise normal, complacent world.

We had always had a good marriage, but just like most of us do, we often took each other for granted – thinking we had a long future ahead. Bob had traveled a great deal for years with his job, we were involved in the kids’s lives, I was teaching and helping to take care of my mom, life was busy, and we rarely took the time to enjoy spending time together.

Then came this. After many tears, prayers, times of fear and absolute panic at the thought of watching him go through such a painful ordeal, God and I had a little talk, or He had one with me. In His still, quiet voice, I think He told me pretty clearly that it was time to trust Him and to get on with life. Bob agreed and we found our peace.

We can look back now and see that this experience became such a blessing in disguise. It made us realize then that our years together could be limited, and we had to appreciate each day as never before. Every day became a gift to us (and continues to be all these years later). Our words to each other became kinder, our laughter a little more frequent, our time together more important, and our hearts much more grateful.

And then came our 26th wedding anniversary. It seemed to mean more than any of the others, and Bob gave me the most cherished possession I have ever owned. It was a simple, gold chain necklace with a small, diamond heart charm. It was a beautiful, amazing gift for such an occasion, but it was even more valuable to me for a much more important reason. For a man who loves life and loves to laugh, and has never been particularly sentimental or romantic, this was a priceless gift – the most special gift of all. He gave me this heart to remind me of what we had gone through together and how with God’s grace, we had learned to look at each other and life in a new way. He said that he gave it to me so that I could wear it close to my own heart always as a reminder that his heart, his love, and God’s love would always be with me.

Oh,. .  it could have been made out of tinfoil for all I cared! For we both understood the symbolic meaning all too well and every time I wear it, I remember the blessing of his love, the gift of God’s love to us, and I appreciate them both even more.

What a precious gift and wonderful blessing we have in those we love, but even more precious is the one of knowing that we have a God who loves us even more – so unconditionally, so completely, and so abundantly. And in return we should show our love and faithfulness to Him – a love based on honor and commitment – especially in terms of being the very best we can possibly be.

We are to be in awe of His greatness and His goodness to us. And we should seek to be genuine, caring people, who have a longing to live out His truths in our lives with every word and deed as we seek to show His compassion, love, and mercy to others.

How much we take His love for granted and assume it will always be present. How often we fail to tell Him of our love, appreciation, and gratitude for His presence and for the blessings of life. And how little of ourselves we give to spending time with Him and sharing His love with others. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart.” 

Perhaps, we think we don’t need an outward reminder of God’s love and faithfulness to us, but do we? Do we need that little message bound around our necks or “written on the tablets of our hearts”, so that His love is always before us and never to be forgotten?

Hopefully, we have already allowed His Spirit to write His truths on our hearts, they have become embedded in our souls, and He has become as much a part of our lives as breathing itself. And if and when He does, it is up to us to carry His love out into the world and share it with those around us. “Then we will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Who could ask for more!

Prayer

Our most gracious God, may we be reminded daily of your love and faithfulness to us and may we freely share this blessing with others, giving you all honor and praise for your presence in our lives.  Amen 

God is Good!

For everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4: 4 – 5

God is good! How many times we say this phrase, or hear it said, when we are experiencing happy times in our lives, when we have received good news about a concern that could have turned out so differently, or when our hearts are simply at peace and content. We sincerely mean it and are so grateful for our loving God. But oh, how hard it would be for any of us to say these words in the midst of our pain and despair.

On May 15th, I posted a devotion called “Living with His Mercy and Grace”In it, I wrote about a blog I had just read, entitled Pray for Ben, written by Ben’s mom, Mindy. It was a deeply personal story about how her family was dealing with the devastating diagnosis of a brain tumor in her son, Ben, at the age of 4, and included the sweetest pictures of their family. Sadly, Ben passed away shortly after I had written about her amazing strength and faith in God.

Since that time, she has continued to write about the struggles her family has faced – the adjustment it has been for Jack, Ben’s twin brother, and his 2 year old sister, Meagan; how heartbreaking it has been for Mindy and her husband, Andy, to go on with life without their son; and the hope they have as they await the birth of their new daughter in September.

But her last post touched my heart in an even more significant way, as I realized how often I fail to give God praise, even in the difficult times. Through her pain and grief, she shared what God’s truths have meant to her, as she wrote about some of her favorite Bible verses she had memorized as a child and had held onto all these years. She expressed in such a heartfelt way about how they have given her the strength and faith to get through this painful journey in their lives.

I hope you will go to her site at bensauer.blogspot.com and read her latest post entitled “Where My Feet Are Planted“.  It is one of the most profound statements of walking with God’s grace and living with faith that I have ever read, and I think you will find it to be the same.

One of the verses she included was this one from 1 Timothy above, in which she wrote, “God is good. All the time.” What a remarkable story as she continues to hold on to Him and trust in His goodness. And what a lesson for all of us to remember – to give Him the honor and praise always that He so deserves.

Prayer

Our most loving and gracious God, we thank you for all that is good in our lives and for your presence with us when we face difficult times. May we trust in you and have the same strong faith, strength, and grace to accept your will as this dear mother and her family has. We praise your most holy name. Amen

Treasure God’s Word

I have not departed from the commands of his lips. I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. Job 23: 12

Haven’t you enjoyed all the fresh vegetables available to us this summer? Cole has definitely kept us supplied with lots of cucumbers from his garden, and we have had the opportunity to enjoy so many other ones. How delicious they have been, and we feel healthier just knowing we have eaten so many!

I am amazed that God has provided just the right foods we need for strong, healthy bodies – fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats and protein, and grain. Our daily bread – just what we need to sustain us, giving health, strength, and vitality.

But God has also given us something else that is equally as important for our spiritual nourishment as well – His Word. In this verse, Job called “the words of His mouth”  a treasure and of more value than food itself.

What a perfect description of something precious to us and of great worth – something we should consume and use for the betterment of our souls just as we do our food for our bodies. Solomon wrote in Proverbs that Scripture “brings health to our body and nourishment to our bones”  as it provides exactly what we need for each dayAnd what an even more powerful reminder by Jesus Himself when He said that He gives us bread, but that we can’t live by bread alone. We need Him,” the bread of life“.

The Word of God strengthens, refreshes, and energizes our spirits as bread does to our bodies. When we “feed” on His message to us, it produces a spiritual power within us that increases our faith, assurance, and trust in Him. We are reminded of His abundant and all-consuming love for us and of the truths we need to live each and every day. May we take it in and accept His strength and love in all its fullness. May His Word too become our daily bread and may we treasure it in our hearts.

Prayer

Dear God, we thank you for the treasure of your Word to us. May we appreciate its value to our lives and live according to its truths. Amen

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Does your heart ever feel heavy and burdened at the thought of what others  are going through? Do you find yourselves lifting them up in prayer and asking for God’s strength, comfort, and grace upon them?  

We know as Christians we were never promised that life would be perfect or easy because we believe in Him. One thing we do know with complete “certainty”, is that if these individuals and families call upon His name, they can trust God to be with them through it all.  

He is God in the good times and in the bad. He carries us and we have the confidence of knowing we  may not understand, but we do know He loves us and He will take our pain and make something good come out of every situation. We have seen it through our own circumstances and through the experiences of others.

Where would we be without that hope – that expectation and confidence that He will be with us and give us His comforting and loving presence? I am constantly in awe of our God as I have seen Him give that strength and assurance, and seen how resilient and strong it made those who believe. We know that we have the encouragement of His Word to reassure us whenever we need it, and we have our own past experiences with His presence and care to comfort us and others. We know that tragic events can occur – we see them around us all the time and we are often left shocked and dismayed by their fierceness.

We may question God, search for answers, and even pray that He will give us wisdom and understanding. But sometimes there just aren’t answers and we have to trust in His divine care. I have found over time and through my reliance on Him that our real hope and satisfaction doesn’t come from solving the mysteries of faith, getting our questions answered, or in trying to rationalize why God would let such a thing happen. Real hope comes from the encounters we have with the one true living God, our Creator and Sustainer of life.

If we don’t know Him for the God He is, sense His presence, or feel His love, tender mercy, comfort, assurance, peace and joy, then answers aren’t all that important. They are empty and futile. But through truly knowing Him and understanding His unconditional love and care, we know we can live each day with hope, comfort, and  peace. I can’t imagine life without that “overflowing” hope nor can I imagine life without Him.

It is  comforting to be reminded that God understands our grief and sadness, and He will provide the strength and comfort that is needed to carry us through. He will walk with us in our grief, sorrow, and pain. For we have His promise in Psalm 30:5  “. . . weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  If we depend upon His love and grace, we can always find hope and peace in His loving presence.

 Prayer

Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for the hope you provide through the power of your Holy Spirit within us, but even more we thank you for your presence in our lives and the love and care we know you will always provide. We ask that you comfort those who are going through difficult times and be a constant source of strength and peace.  Amen

I Lift Up My Eyes

I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

I love mountains and rolling hills! They always give me such a feeling of peace and strength, and I do enjoy their scenic beauty! I have always been so fortunate to live in an area where I am surrounded by them, and they are a constant reminder of God’s power and goodness to us.

How grateful we can be that no matter where we live, we can always lift up our eyes and remember the incredible faithfulness of the God who loves us. How our hearts are lifted as we look to the heavens in gratitude to our Creator and Sustainer of life whose love and care are constant in our lives.

This verse comes from another one of those beautiful Psalms written by David who was certainly able to look back over his life and see all the “mountains and valleys” that God had carried him through. He had first hand knowledge of all God was able to do and had experienced His love and grace. He depended on His protection and care and God never let Him down. His eyes were always on Him in times of need and not on the enemies that surrounded him. God knew His heart and He was faithful to him.

May we, too, always keep our eyes focused on God and lift our hearts to Him as we trust in His loving presence and care.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we thank you that we can cry out to you in our times of need and that we have the assurance that you will always be ready to give the help we need. We thank you for the beauty of your creations and for your goodness to us. Amen

Trust in His Love

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8: 28

Don’t you just love a good movie where the story ends with everyone living happily ever after? You know the ones which the guys call “chick flicks” because they make us “girls” cry and smile all at the same time! We all have our favorites, can probably recall every part of its plot, and can even recite a few of its lines! If only life could turn out so well!

The amazing thing is that in God’s eyes, it does! This verse is one of the greatest promises in all of Scripture and one that we could read over and over again and still not fully comprehend its meaning: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” 

In our earthly perspective, this truth seems impossible to understand. We see so much pain and despair not only in our own lives, but in all those around us. Life often ends in tragic ways and we see much suffering and grief. Evil occupies our world, natural disasters occur, and our lives are filled with much anxiety and uncertainty. We often question how so many of our life experiences could ever be for our good.

But, there have been times, I am sure, in all our lives that we have seen this to be true. We can look back over time and see that things did work for good – things we even saw initially as disappointments and set-backs that worked out to be great blessings. We may also recognize that the painful things in our lives have made us stronger and our faith deeper as we have depended on Him to carry us through.

Yet, we all have gone through circumstances where we have come out on the other side and could find nothing redeeming about the experience. We still felt the pain long after it was over, and is some cases, we knew we would for the rest of our lives. We didn’t understand why something so painful had to happen and we may have even questioned His love for us. 

There is so much we can’t understand about the ways of God, but we can know that there is power in His love and wisdom. He can do things through us that we could never do on our own. And we have His promise that He will take our circumstances, the painful things in our lives, and use them in some way for our ultimate good. We have His assurance that it may not be in the way we desire, or in our timing, but through His grace He will bring about His purpose and will for our lives.

God has assured us that if we will trust in His love for us and walk by faith, He will give us life beyond anything we could ever imagine – life eternal with those we love and with Him, our Heavenly Father.

 Prayer

Dear God, life can often be so painful and uncertain. May we look to you with faith and hope of what lies ahead. Amen

Do it With Attitude!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3: 23 – 24

Today is cleaning day and I am not enjoying it at all! I love a clean house, but getting there is just a chore! As I was going through the motions and feeling a bit sorry for myself for having to do it – when there were so many other things I wanted to be doing – I remembered the words a kind, little man said to me at the grocery store.

He often bags my groceries and is always so happy – singing and whistling as he goes! We always chat, but on this day, I asked him how his day had been and how in the world he could always be in such a good mood – happy and smiling. His response was, “Well, how could I not be when the Lord has been so good to me? And besides if you’re gonna work, the Good Book tells us to do it all for Him. So as I work, I always say, ‘For you, O Lord!’ And you know what, when you do it that way, it makes your work a whole lot easier! Now you have a blessed day, little lady!”

I remember thinking, “Wow! What an attitude! I surely need to know that verse!” But I hadn’t thought of it again – until today – so right in the midst of my cleaning, I went and looked it up, and sure enough, there it was: Colossians 3: 23 – 24:  “Whatever you do, do it heartily as if working for the Lord.”

That changed my whole perspective and put a little skip in my step as I worked. I put on some praise music and lifted my voice to Him as I went about the tedious work of finishing up cleaning. But you know, Ben was right! It wasn’t nearly as tedious as before! Even the mere thought of doing it for God brought a smile and a new determination to do it well!

Of course, it’s all about our attitude! No matter what the work might be or the circumstances in which we do it, we can find fulfillment and satisfaction as we keep this priority. God wants us to always do our best whatever we do – whether it’s cleaning the house, doing our job, working at our relationships with each other, or in serving Him. If we keep our focus on pleasing Him, wherever we are or whatever we’re doing, we’ll want to do our best. Our level of commitment will rise to do each job well and we’ll do it with enthusiasm and joy. And as we put our whole hearts and souls into each one, who knows when someone might see Christ in us as we do it! And they might even be blessed by our attitude!

And the amazing part of this verse is, that it tells us that God is eager to bless us for the things we do with a right heart. Thank you, Ben, for a simple reminder that life is good and that everything we do should be done with a loving attitude towards Him!

 Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we thank you for the opportunity and privilege to be able to work in our homes, our jobs, in our relationships, and in serving you. May we always do it wholeheartedly as if we are doing it for you. Amen

His Way is Perfect

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18: 30

We would all like to live in a perfect world, wouldn’t we? We would especially like one without problems, worries, and burdens to bear – one where everyone is always happy and content. We think if only we had the perfect world and the perfect God, then our lives could be perfect too!

God doesn’t always act as we think He should, and sometimes we just don’t understand why He allows certain things to happen. And when they do, we want to blame or question His wisdom. So many times we feel as if He just doesn’t understand what we want or need. We want things to always work out in the way we want.

But a perfect life certainly isn’t the one our God created for us. We live in a broken world and there are consequences to our actions and danger all around us. He gave us these temporal bodies that will wear out, but He also gave us the hope of eternal life with Him with our new bodies. He gave us this beautiful creation for our pleasure and He gave us free will so we might choose to live in His way of truth, or live in the darkness without Him. But His greatest desire is that we will come to Him on our own out of love.  

God isn’t a genie in a bottle who only gives us what our hearts desire. He has a plan for each of us and for our world. In His sovereignty, each of us is a part of the whole. And only He knows how the plan for our world will unfold. We may not always like His ways, but no one could love us or bless us more.

He is our loving Father and we are his children. He longs to care for us and have a relationship with us, He gives us wonderful people to love who love us, and He longs for us to love everyone around us. He wants us to look to Him for guidance, comfort, tenderness, mercy, hope, peace, and grace. Even more, He wants to be our refuge and comfort when we do face those difficult times of despair. He is our shield against evil and our hope for the future.

His way is perfect and His Word is “flawless” as we see how His promises have come true through the stories that are recounted in the pages of Scripture. Yes, His ways are beyond our understanding, but we can always count on Him to give us His perfect love and grace.

Prayer

Dear God, so many times we question your ways and think we know what is best for us. Thank you that you know what we truly need and you look out for us with unconditional love and compassion. We are so grateful for your loving presence in our lives. Amen.

What Can I Do For You?

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. Mark 10: 51

Some of the hardest decisions we have to make in this life come when we are older. You would think it would get easier and less complicated, but instead it seems to get much more difficult. Many of you have been in this same place with your parents and grandparents as you work together to try to decide what would be best for them. So many emotions come into play. Sadness over the changes, confusion over what to do, doubt, guilt, frustration, and even grief. It can create overwhelming anxiety and stress for all involved as we deal with the reality of the situation.

My niece is facing such decisions with her mom, my dear sister, Ruth. She has had a difficult time the last few months and has been hospitalized and diagnosed with some challenging health problems, including Alzhimer’s. She has been in an assisted living home, but hasn’t received the care she needs, and she and her daughter are now trying to make the difficult decision of whether to move her to a more skilled care facility or to take her home with round the clock assistance.

Last week I spent some time with Ruth, and we talked about the decision before her. She talked openly about her life and how difficult it had been to give up her husband when she was in her early 30’s from lung cancer and to raise their 5 year old daughter alone. She talked about how blessed she has been to have good health up until the last year and how active, independent, and busy she has been. But now these problems – of accepting that her life is changing and that she will no longer be able to be the helpful, loving mother and grandmother she longs to be – seem difficult, as well. And even though she trusts God, she admitted that she is struggling to follow His will and to accept what is to come. I listened with a broken heart and searched for the right words to comfort and encourage her, but none seemed adequate.

I told her how sorry I was, how much we all love her, and how much life she has before her – maybe not in the way she had hoped, but life with all its goodness. I told her I thought I understood a little of what she was feeling. I remembered how hard it was to accept Bob’s diagnosis in his early 50’s that he had congestive heart failure and how much we worried, but what good years there had been since. She said she also understood how difficult it had been for me to find out 4 years ago that I too have major heart problems. I reminded her that it also took us some time to adjust and accept, but now we are just grateful for each day we have together, enjoying each one, and trusting in Him. And I know she will do the same.

Her eyes filled with tears and with the sweet concern she always has, she said, “Oh, Charlotte, I’m so sorry! What can I do for you?” And through tears, I replied, “I’m good! What can I do for YOU? How can I help you?” And we knew. We smiled, took each other’s hands, closed our eyes, and we prayed. First me, then her. Sometimes a prayer is all any of us need, as we look to Him for strength, guidance, assurance, and peace.

How grateful we can be that our Lord wants us to come to Him with our needs, and is asking us the same question. For we see in the book of Mark that the blind man, Bartimaeus, called out to Jesus for mercy from the side of the road as Jesus and His disciples traveled to Jericho, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked, and the man replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.” And Jesus said,“Go, your faith has healed you.” And it did.

May we trust in Him with faith as we travel these uncertain and painful roads of life. May we let Him come to us and allow Him to give us what we need most. How grateful we can be that He will always respond with His love and care.

And may we share His love with others as we ask those around us what we too can do for them. There are so many who are hurting and need reminding of the strength and assurance they can find in His presence. No question can show more love and concern than the one Jesus asked, “What can I do for you?”

 Prayer

Dear Lord, we are so grateful that you are always with us, and that you long to provide whatever we might need. Thank you for your love, grace, and strength to accept those painful things in life that can fill us with such fear and anxiety. May we trust in your loving presence to carry us through. Amen

Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100: 4 

I remember as a child learning this verse, and trying to visually imagine “entering His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”. I had no understanding of what the verse might mean, nor did I have any idea of the real significance of being truly thankful. I could have never imagined all the many reasons I would someday have for giving God much praise and glory.

Now I realize there aren’t even words to give justice to its meaning. I am so in awe of God’s goodness and love to us, His blessings in the form of family, friends, His beautiful creation, His Son, the promise of eternal life, and the gift of His presence with us.

How many times I have thought of this verse as I have gone before God in prayer. With what ease and confidence we can do so as we simply lift our prayers to the heavens. I always think of the story of the tabernacle in the Old Testament and of all that was expected of His people upon entering, and how unworthy they were considered to be to go before His throne of grace. Jesus Christ changed all those requirements for us when He died on the cross. He became our sacrifice, our High Priest, and our “gate” to enter God’s presence.

It is the story from Exodus of how God desired to dwell among His people and He gave Moses the plans for building a tabernacle, a tent, that would be taken down and carried from place to place in the wilderness. It was a sacred place where God chose to meet the Israelites during the 40 years they wandered in the desert and where the leaders and their people could come to worship and offer animal sacrifices to Him. God desired to be in the midst of His people but they were sinful, so through this sanctuary, He made it possible for them to enter the courtyard to worship and to go through the gate to atone for their sins on the altar.

Even after doing so, they were not permitted to go any further or nearer to the veil behind which was found the Holy of Holies, where God ‘s true presence and the ark of covenant were located. Only the High Priest could do so once a year on their behalf. Yet, His presence was made known through the pillars of fire by night and by clouds during the day that settled over the tabernacle, and the people knew that God was with them. With this knowledge, they entered His courts with thanksgiving.

As we enter our own places of worship, we, too, should come before Him with joyful thanksgiving in our hearts for what He has done for us and praise for who He is. Doing so opens our hearts to worship Him as the God of the Universe and Savior of the world. May we go before Him in reverence and love and give Him all honor and praise.

  Prayer

Dear God, it gives us great honor and joy to come before you – to enter your gates with thanksgiving and your courts with praise. Thank you for all the blessings of life, your Word, the gift of your Son, and the hope we have in you for eternal life. Amen

Only He Can See

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4: 3 – 4

How much time we all spend worrying about what others think of us! And usually it’s about things that we know are not all that important, such as how we look, how we dress, how many nice things we have, etc, etc. How tiring and unnecessary that can become!

And why do we give the opinions of these “others” so much power and significance over us? If we look closely at their lives, we may find theirs are no more perfect than our own. If only we could be more concerned with the answers to such questions as these: “Do my family and friends know how much I love and cherish them?”, and of even more value, “Am I a person who reflects God’s love in my life to others?”

This passage from 1 Corinthians is an interesting one as it expresses 3 different types of judgment courts we all face: the court of our peers and others around us, the one in which we judge ourselves, and the court of judgment by God.

Paul begins by saying that he doesn’t give much weight to others’ opinions, but notice he didn’t say “I don’t care at all what others may think.”  We all want to make good impressions and be well thought of, but it should never be a major focus in our lives. Hopefully, we all eventually figure out that no one can truly know our thoughts, our motives, and what lies deep within our hearts. All they can know is what our outward appearance and actions show. Only God can see deep within, and what He sees matters most of all.

The same is true of our judgments of others. We can’t begin to judge another person until we have walked in their shoes or have all the facts about their lives. When Scripture tells us we can’t know what is in our own hearts, we certainly can’t begin to discern what’s in the heart of another. As this verse reminds us – when it comes to judging others and evaluating their motives, we need to leave that to God.

Secondly, Paul states that he does not and cannot even judge himself. He is not discounting the fact that we all need to examine ourselves closely at times and look to our conscience to monitor and guide our thoughts, actions, and motives. But even it can be fallible. Sometimes we are simply poor judges of ourselves, for rarely are we totally honest and objective about what we see deep down inside.

It is only God who can bring to light what is hidden in the darkness of our souls and expose the motives of our hearts. He is the only One who can accurately and consistently judge us with perfect objectivity. He is the only lawmaker and judge whose knowledge of the facts is complete. And if we have lived our lives for Him, in a way that has been consistent with His truths, we can rest assured that each of us will receive His approval at the appropriate time.

How much more satisfying will His praise be than that of man! And what comfort it brings to know that on that day, all of us who have been wrongly judged by others will be vindicated and rewarded by God Himself. How thankful we can be that our saving grace is not based on the judgment of others, what we feel in our hearts, or what our conscience tells us about ourselves. “It is the Lord who judges us.”

 Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you that we will not be judged by our own hearts or by the opinions of others, but that you are the only Judge who truly matters. We are so grateful for your love and saving grace. We give you all honor, praise and glory. Amen

Angels Among Us

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1: 14

Angel sightings seem to be coming with even more frequency. We’ve all heard, read about, and seen them on the big screen – stories about these amazing individuals who have shown up at just the right moment with incredible strength and compassion! Or perhaps you have experienced your own encounter with one of these divine messengers from God!

People from all over the world have reported encounters with these mysterious beings who appear, bringing much needed assistance or who deliver important messages. Skeptics say there are plausible explanations for them, or they are simply just the figment of our imagination, but for those who have experienced their presence, there is no doubt that these extraordinary beings are very real.

I just read another news article about a young woman who had a car accident on an isolated country road and a mysterious person showed up to help, called 911, and then vanished into thin air when the ambulance arrived. She has sent out a request for the person who did so to come forward so she can thank him for saving her life, or she is asking for any information that someone might have about him. Yet, she made it very clear that she really doesn’t expect to hear from anyone, for she truly believes that an angel was sent to rescue her.

We love and are so intrigued by these stories of “angels” who have mysteriously appeared and disappeared after performing unbelievable feats when no one else was around, or when no one was able to help in the way that was needed. There have even been stories of missionaries or soldiers fearing for their lives in foreign countries who were later told of “guards“ or “armies of men” who were seen surrounding their locations to keep them safe, and then to be told later that there was no evidence of such a force. Could these mysterious persons really be angels, possibly our guardian angels, sent from God Himself to minister to our needs until He is ready to call us home?

What a comforting thought to think that our God would love us so much that He would want to send these “ministering spirits” to walk with us and help us in times of our greatest need. But according to Scripture, they seem to be more than just a thought to reassure us.

There is much biblical evidence for these divine beings with nearly 300 references  in the Old and New Testaments about them. In these passages, we are told that these angels have the ability to change their appearance and to travel instantly back and forth between heaven above and earth below. Always ready and available to help, there may be millions of them among us just waiting for the message from God to do so.

Many even believe that there is evidence to show that we each have our own guardian angel who is sent to minister to our needs, to protect us, to keep us from harm, and even to lovingly escort us from death to our eternal home in heaven. How like our God to send His angels to live among us and keep us in His care.

Prayer

Our heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your “ministering spirits” to lovingly care for us, to protect us, and to keep us in your will. We give you all honor, praise, and glory for your goodness to us. Amen