Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Week Forty-Nine - Where Do You Run?

Dottie Rambo wrote,

Where do I go when there's nobody else to turn to?Who do I talk to when no one wants to listen?Who do I lean on when there's no foundation stable?
I go to the RockI know He's ableI go to the Rock
I go to the Rock of my salvationGo to the stone the builders rejectedRun to the Mountain, and the Mountain stands by me
When the earth all around me is sinking sandOn Christ, the solid Rock I standWhen I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the Rock.

My video blog on YouTube this coming Friday is about our reaction to bad news. I hope you'll take time to listen. But I wanted to use our time today to put a bit more of a preface to Friday because bad news has been something in the forefront, hasn't it? 

I began thinking about where we run when we hear bad news or when bad things happen. Let me assure you that no amount of positive or wishful thinking can change the world. No amount of hiding makes it go away, either. The world is what it is, but we are still called to be His light. But sometimes, we, too, need a place to hide, a place of shelter and security, a place to work from or run to that gives us hope.

God's Word is that place, both a place to live from and a place to run to. This thought brought me much meditation. If I am living from God's Word, then I have a solid place to stand. My thoughts and actions will be based on His directives, and I will avoid fear and confusion. I'll be like the man who built his house upon a Rock; when the storms blow and all around me rages, my life will not collapse.

I remembered verses about the solidness of God's Word; it is our final judge and will be fulfilled to the utmost.

Proverbs 19:21 reads, "The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." Proverbs 21:30 says, "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord." God's Word is solid, trustworthy, and consistent.

Ephesians 1:11 tells us God will accomplish all He has planned. "According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."  All things! God is fully in control.

My part is to allow His Word to be the light unto my path, to fill my thoughts, and to work within me. It gives me a place to stand.

God's Word is also where I run when things get difficult or fearful. It is my refuge, comfort, and counselor.

As I mused about this, I again began remembering Scripture where the psalmist spoke of God's Word as a refuge, a safe place, a shield, and a buckler. 

Psalm 3:3, 5 reads, But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. . . I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me."

And I love Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."

So, God's Word is a place to run. 

So here's where I settled. If I want to be effective for Christ and not be blown around by all the bad news, then I must be persuaded that His Word is truth, truth that sets me free. But also, His Word must remain my refuge when bad news comes, and life grows fearful or more challenging. I go there, and He meets me with words of love. Ultimately, I live in and retreat to God's Word in every situation. I go to the Rock! Do you?

Here is the link for this week's video if you'd like an early viewing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Week Forty-Eight - Twelve Thanksgiving Hacks

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a lovely time with your family and your heart brims with thankfulness. I will be spending time in the home of one of my sons. It's the first time in years I have been stateside for Thanksgiving, and I'm looking forward to it!

Today, I want to share a post by Shane Bishop that encouraged me to refocus on the holiday, made me giggle, and created even more thankfulness in my heart. I hope some of his ideas also put a spark back in your celebration.

He writes, "There is a lot to like about Thanksgiving. I love the fact we don't buy each other gifts. You don't have to draw names in advance. You don't have to get a loan to celebrate Thanksgiving. You buy some food, make it, eat it, and clean it up. Simple. Come to think of it, this year you may have to get a loan to buy food. Gas to go to Grandma's? Another loan, but I digress.

I love the fact that we have one standardized Thanksgiving narrative (regardless of historical accuracy) and we stick to it. I am glad we don't have fictional stories on Thanksgiving. No one wants to hear about the Thanksgiving Puritan riding in a magical Buggy pulled by anti-biotic and steroid-free turkeys who travel all over the world on Thanksgiving Eve delivering unusually appreciative children cans of canned, gelatinous cranberry sauce and tossing in corporately sponsored can openers.

Thanksgiving is about turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, your Nana's special dish, and desserts made of pumpkins, cherries, and pecans. It is about family, friends, and football but most of all it is about taking time to remember. Thanksgiving is where we have conversations with people long since gone who sit in empty chairs in the houses of our childhoods. We smile at them and they smile back. We used to sing a song at church called, "Count Your Blessings," and for me, Thanksgiving is a time to do just that. "Count your blessings, name them one by one."

With Halloween out of the way and November upon us, it is time to lock into Thanksgiving. Here are twelve hacks that I humbly offer to you and yours:

1) Make everyone stay at the table for a full hour. Set a timer. No one leaves. No one. "Are you done eating? Who cares? Sit down," and not a bit of dessert or a sip of coffee for forty-five minutes.

2) No phones at the table. None. If you look at your phone, it goes in the turkey carcass with the stuffing until supper. If your phone rings, you are doing dishes. No exceptions. Late violations can carry over to the next year.

3) Say grace. Old fashioned. Heads bowed, eyes closed, holding hands. Have the patriarch or matriarch do it. Kids are cute. Let old people say grace. One person can keep their eyes open to monitor.

4) Remember those by name who are not in their chairs this year. Speak out the names of deceased loved ones. Remember their lives, place in your family and their sacrifice.

5) Tell your favorite Thanksgiving stories. The year of the huge Thanksgiving blizzard. The year when it was like summer outside and everyone went on a walk. The big family football game of 1972. The sweet potato casserole debacle of 2001. When the dog ate the turkey. Get out the old photos. The kind you don't have on your phone.

6) Laugh. A lot. Tell your funniest family stories. Make them better than last year.

7) Count your blessings. Slow it down. Focus on what you have in front of you instead of what or who is missing. Have people share one thing for which they are thankful right before dessert.

8) Tell the people around your table just how much you love them and why they are special to you. There are no guarantees they will be here next Thanksgiving. Or you either, for that matter.

9) Help clean up and stick around. Clear the table. Watch some football. Remember great Thanksgiving football games past! Google Clint Longley. Take a nap. Go on a walk. Drink coffee. Drink more coffee.

10) Give thanks. Find a moment to get away, drop to your knees, and personally tell God thank you.

11) Don't talk politics. If anyone does, construct them a home-made political button denoting the opposite party and touting the name of their least favorite president of all time. Make them wear it all day. No button, no pie.

12) Make the best of things. Things will never be "perfect." Take what you have and make the best of it. No matter how things go, at least you are not a turkey.

Why do I write? Because you wouldn't want to eat the turkey and dressing, gobble up the pie, and miss the point."

To add to his hacks, I thought of a few other things that could be part of our Thanksgiving celebration.

1 - After the meal, stop again, hold hands, and pray for your family. Maybe ask the Lord to watch over each one and bring you back safely again next year. Praise Him for the beauty and wonder of family and ask the Lord's blessing on each one, including those away from the table.

2 - Before the dessert is served, join hands and sing a song of thanksgiving. The Doxology, Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart, or Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul, came to my mind. But maybe you have a family favorite.

3 - Recite the Lord's prayer together. Or even use this little verse below to express the reason for the season.

Whatever your time looks like, I hope you don't miss the point of Thanksgiving - "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Be sure to catch my video blog on Friday - Gobble, Gobble, Gobble - as we prepare our hearts for the final celebration of 2023.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Week Forty-Seven - Rich Beyond Measure

We spent this past week with my husband's family enjoying five full days of a family reunion in Oklahoma. We are so blessed to have a large extended family and my children are blessed by the heritage of Christian grandparents on both sides along with loving aunts and uncles. As I stop to count the blessings, these rank high on my list: a heritage of faith, a family of love, and a dearness that binds us together. Our week felt like a little glimpse of the heavenly reunion yet to come.

Watching generations mingle, share stories, and enjoy laughter reminded me of the benefit of the Lord that maketh rich. We are rich; rich in love, rich in joy, and rich in fellowship What a blessing. I pray that this richness will continue into the next generation and that they, too, will come to understand the beauty and blessing of what they have been given through their family and through Christ.

I know not everyone enjoys these blessings and that some families are splintered. That saddens me, and my heart goes out to them. If you are in one of these families, I pray that you would be the avenue of change, that you would covet with God in your heart and life to be the peacemaker, to be the one that creates a new path for your arm of the family and thereby become a blessing to your future generations.

While we were there, I was trying to explain the law of sowing and reaping to my nine-year-old granddaughter. We were talking about the benefit of using good words and having a good attitude. She caught the idea, I think! I truly believe this law also applies to our family dynamics. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). So be that man, that person, implement the law of sowing and reaping in all your decisions and interactions. Choose good words and have healthy attitudes that create happiness and security amid your family. And also practice the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12). See if God doesn't bless your family with a precious richness. 

Earthy reunions are extraordinary times, but even more incredible; how thankful can we be that God will one day call us home to the marriage supper of the Lamb and a glorious reunion with our fellow saints of God. Are you ready?

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Week Forty-Six - Sap-full

Every year, nature creates a glorious spectacle of autumnal beauty in shades of yellow, red, and orange. Watching the change of seasons reminds us of the life cycle of nature. Comparatively, my devotion today challenged me to think about the beauty of the processes of the Christian life. 

Spurgeon wrote about sap moving up and down a tree, providing life and energy for foliage and fruit. Then, he made the analogy of the Holy Spirit being like sap in the Christian's life. The Holy Spirit moves within the Christian, prompting him to action, bringing Scripture to remembrance, convicting of sin, and bringing rejoicing to the heart. This is the same Spirit Jesus described to Zacchaeus as the wind blowing where it listeth (John 3:8). We cannot see where it comes from or where it goes, but we see the evidence of its effect. The sap of the Holy Spirit flowing through the Christian is similar. It is a beautiful thing to yield and obey its divine prompting. And when we do, our lives produce rich foliage and pleasant fruit.

Spurgeon wrote, "As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life."

So let this be our challenge today: May the sap of the Holy Spirit be so allowed to flow in our lives that it becomes evident in the color of our walk and talk. May we be fruitful and sap-full servants of God in every season of life.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Week Forty-Five - What You Need to Know

I enjoy listening to intelligent people talk. Their handle on reason and depth of knowledge impresses me. My little mind wanders along with them as I try to capture their ideas. 

The Bible is full of intelligent people, and we will consider a couple of them today, but I want to remind you of two things you need to know. Wisdom comes from God. It isn't produced by intelligence; it is the submissive understanding that God is the source of all truth. And, according to Proverbs 21:30, "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord." For all our smarts, we will never outsmart God. 

There is a beauty in knowledge that affords us a great wealth of intellect and faith. In Psalm 119, David said that because He meditated on God's Word, he had "more understanding than all his teachers." That's an awfully bold statement, wouldn't you say? God's wisdom plunges deep into the how and why of life, giving this psalmist insight beyond his years.

Daniel was also wise. His wisdom and discernment came directly from spending time with God in prayer. He understood the value and beauty of wisdom when he said, "The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32). This knowledge of God strengthened his faith as he faced Persian captivity and the lion's den.

Let's think of some other things we need to know about Christian knowledge. We have the Spirit of God that leads us into all truth. This knowledge strengthens our love for God and each other. It opens the door to a greater understanding of God and reveals Christ in various facets. 

Ephesians 3:19 reads, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." That is an amazing statement. Take a few moments to meditate on that. Christ's love for us surpasses our understanding, yet it fills us with all the fullness of God. We can't figure it out, but it fills us anyway. Amazing!

Knowledge also strengthens our hope. It removes distracting objects and teaches us patience. Knowledge is a vast treasure we should continually seek. 2 Peter 3:18 instructs us, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Grow not only in spiritual grace but, more importantly, in the knowledge of Christ.

Let me encourage you today to seek God's wisdom, to rest in Him, and to know the peace of God that passes understanding.

Proverbs 2:1-12 gives us more things we need to know about God's wisdom. I've copied in this passage below. As you read, look for the benefits and descriptions of wisdom. Then ask yourself, "Am I diligently searching for God's wisdom or settling for my own? Am I experiencing the things promised by finding God's wisdom, or am I struggling due to my own rebellion? What would it look like to change my direction, and what blessings might come my way?"

"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things."

Do you know this level of wisdom? You can, and you need to.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Week Forty-Four - It's Too Scary

There was a time when reading the book of Revelation or hearing teaching on the End Times filled me with fear. It all seemed too scary. I’d been taught we could not understand Revelation and there was no sense trying to take it literally, but through the years, my fear has been replaced with joyful anticipation every time I read that final book of the Bible.

Not that I don't shutter at the impending wrath of God upon the unbelieving world, but my focus has shifted to the glory of Heaven, the worthiness of the Lamb, and the rejoicing of the saints. I now look forward to the rapture and the wedding supper in Heaven because I am ready.

If you’ve ever read or watched movies about the coming judgment and things that take place it might feel like something from a horror movie, but for the child of God, it is the fulfilling of God's promise for justice, restoration of divine order, and eternal peace.

Watching the news reminds us that we are being ushered us closer and closer to the final hour. Time grows short on this earth, and God's Word is succinct; what He has designed will be fully completed.

If you are a believer, don't shy away from God's revelation of things to come. All of these things are the product of His perfect will and justice on the unbelieving world, the world that rejects Christ. For you, there is no impending judgment. Your sins are forgiven. Your name is in the Book of Life, and you can rest safely in His provision. 

However, it should be very scary if you do not have assurance of your salvation. There is impending war, starvation, earthquakes, and all manner of upheaval as this old earth moves to its demise. Then, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Yet, though they kneel, they will not enter Heaven because they rejected Him while on earth. Don't be among that number.

Today, even as you read this blog, God is warning you and pointing you to a way of escape. Kneel your heart to Christ as King and Redeemer today. The alternative is too scary to imagine.

If you have never heard of God's plan to save you from the wrath to come, please copy and paste this link into your browser and read more. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Week Forty-Three - Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

Because I prefer things to flow and go smoothly, I often grow impatient with waiting. How about you? I have found obstacles that make waiting a trial of faith and patience, obstacles like sloppy accounting, lost data, and government decisions. They grind on my nerves. 

Waiting is one of those qualities a Christian only learns with years of experience. And even then, most of us still have a distaste for waiting. 

Spurgeon took up this topic, saying, "Marching and quick-marching are much easier for God's soldiers than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, doesn't know what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, but simply wait."

Just wait. Those two words leave us in complete wonderment. Sometimes, we don't know why or what we are waiting for. We are simply left with the instruction - wait. So, what is the best posture for these times? As Spurgeon said, we are tempted to vex ourselves, push forward, or run the other way, but that is not Christian faith. He goes on to give us some wonderful instructions.

Wait in prayer. Lay your situation before HIm. Tell Him your difficulty and plead His promise of aid. 

Wait in simplicity of soul. Be sweet and humble like a child. The Father has promised to answer, so wait.

Wait in faith. Lay yourself before Him for His guidance and express your unstaggering confidence in His Word and faithfulness.

Wait in quiet patience. Don't rebel, murmur, or fight against God. Accept the situation as it stands and "simply, with your whole heart, without any self-will," commit your situation to God and wait for Him to work.

That's not always so easy to do, is it? 

Here's what I've learned about waiting. It can be a wonderful place. While waiting, you do other things and serve in different ways. You rest and watch God at work around you. You pray with greater anticipation. You know you are in God's holding pattern and under His protection, so waiting takes on more of a purpose. Ephesians 1:11 tells us He works all things according to the purpose of His will: all things, even the time of standing still.

So, though it might feel uncomfortable and obstacles grind on, we need to learn to be still, trust God's work, and rest in His promises. When you cease from your labors, you begin to see His better.