Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Week Fifty-Two - Blessed are They Who Receive

We've had several days of receiving, haven't we? Not only have we received gifts, but also food and friendship, fun and memories. I do hope you had a lovely Christmas, and the gifts under your tree brought joy to your heart. We are in Spain still waiting to share Christmas with our family here as our suitcase of gifts went missing on the flight. It has been found and what a fun time we will have once it catches up with us! The kids can barely wait. Watching their joy reminds me it is more blessed to give than receive.

As we finish out the year, we have been considering the believing of Mary and the obedience of Joseph. Today, I want us to take time to look at those in the Christmas story who received.

Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph received direct commands from an angel. God speaking purposefully into their lives meant their paths were forever altered and what they received opened the door for eternal life through this promised Messiah.

The Shepherds also received Good News from a host of angels. Imagine the night sky lit up with a choir of heavenly beings singing and praising God. It would certainly catch your attention, don't you think? These shepherds were getting on with their job, settling the sheep, and preparing for a night in the open when the announcement came. And what did they do? They came with haste and found the baby just as the angels proclaimed. They received the blessing of being the first ones to visit the baby Jesus.

The Wise Men also received a blessing as they made their way across the desert following a star that led them to the Messiah. There, they presented gifts fit for a king and received direction from God to depart another way. They went home with a blessing.

Simon and Anna received the answer to their prayers as they met Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in the temple. They had long awaited the promised Messiah, and God gave them confirmation. What a blessing when our prayers are answered and our faith is rewarded.

You can probably think of other ways people received things in the Christmas story. I also think of King Herod. He received something, too. He received word that a king was born, but he did not want to receive that message. So he determined to stomp it out and, through his violence, missed the blessing.

The story of the nativity is an invitation to receive. The Messiah has come, this one for whom the Jewish nation anticipated. And what did they do with him? They, like Herod, rejected him. He hadn't come as they thought - to conquer and put them back in power. Instead, he came as a baby born in a lowly manger, then, entering the city on a donkey, humble and meek.

We, too, make the same mistake if we aren't careful. We hear the news of the Saviour, know the story, and yet, miss the blessing. Why do I say that?  Well, like I said, the nativity story is an invitation to receive. Christ came to save. That is precisely what the angel told Joseph.

Matthew 1:21 "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

This is the gift offered by Christ - forgiveness from your sins. But knowing the story isn't enough. You must receive the gift. That means bowing your heart in humble repentance to the King of Kings and giving Him the right to be Lord of your life. That is the invitation of Christ. And when you do, you receive the blessing - forgiveness and eternal life.

It is my prayer today that you have already received the gift of salvation. And if you haven't, I pray you will take time to thoughtfully consider receiving Christ as your Saviour.  Blessed are they who receive. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Week Fifty-One - Blessed is He Who Obeyed

We've been talking about Luke 1:45, where God's word says of Mary, "Blessed is she that believed." Mary, the little Jewish girl, betrothed to Joseph, waiting for her wedding day, is now faced with an angel with a rather unsettling announcement. In the face of unalterable change, what did Mary believe?

As you read, you see she had favour with God; she knew the circumstances were out of her control and that God was at work, and this work included her. She believed God would take care of the details, and God had provided support through Elizabeth. The angel assures her that nothing was impossible with God, and she agrees that God's word must be fulfilled, surrendering her life to God's plan (Luke 1:30-38).

As she speaks to Elizabeth, we can see Mary's view of God. Just look at what she knows. She knows God as mighty and holy, merciful, strong, of great power, caring, and her only help (Luke 1:49-54). And with that belief in her God and his word, she surrenders.

But today, let's also look at Joseph. He, too, was godly. The Bible calls him a just man. Yet, his life was greatly affected by the news from the angel. He was ready to set up home with his fiance. No doubt, he was preparing and excited, but when Mary tells of the angel's visit Joseph is forced to make a decision. What will he do? He knows what the Jewish law says, but his love for Mary and desire to protect her causes him to think carefully before he acts. There was no sudden outburst from this man! He is so disturbed that even his dreams are affected. And in one dream, an angel appears, giving him a direct command. "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 1:20). And Joseph, by faith, obeyed. 

He seems to disappear as the Scripture moves to the events with Herod and the Wisemen in the book of Matthew, but in the book of Luke, we see Joseph obeying the law and taking his young wife, expectant with child, to Bethlehem to fulfill the taxes. Joseph is mentioned at the arrival of the shepherds, and then, with Mary at the giving of sacrifices in the temple marveling at the words of Simeon.

Matthew records one more important time when Joseph obeyed. After the visit from the Wisemen, when Herod's jealousy and anger decreed that all children under the age of two years were to be slaughtered, an angel again appears to Joseph with instruction to take Mary and baby Jesus into Egypt until it is safe to return.

Here is a man willing to obey God and lay aside his personal desires. It takes a genuine character and great faith to take on a calling. And this was Joseph's calling - to be the protector and provider for the Son of God.

As I think about Joseph, I imagine a man of strength and purpose, a man with a caring and gentle demeanor, but also a man of integrity and trustworthiness. This was no small task, and as he and Mary marveled at all that was going on, I can only believe they were in awe of their role.

Both Joseph and Mary believed, and both obeyed in the face of unexpected circumstances beyond their control.

What is our reaction to life-altering news? What do we believe? Mary's initial panic did not hinder her belief and obedience because she had a solid trust in God and His word. Blessed is she that believed. For all generations, the faith and action of this one young woman have been a beacon and example. Likewise, Joseph exhibited his faith and obedience as he stepped up to take on his God-given role with character and integrity.

So, the next time an angel brings you news or life throws you a curveball, be ready with a solid belief. The God who met with Mary and Joseph is also at work in your life. Will you be blessed and obedient in believing?

If you missed last week's blog, go back and read! We are looking at the belief of Mary and Joseph, and if you want to hear more, go over to YouTube and listen to more on Mary - Blessed is She that Believed, and Joseph - Blessed is He Who Obeyed. We will have one more on this theme - Blessed are They Who Receive coming next week.  Until then, I hope you are successfully preparing to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.  Catch you next week - Gail

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Week Fifty - Blessed is She That Believed

In the days of Herod, the King of Judea, two unsuspecting women were getting on with life. One attends her duties as the wife of a priest, while the other lives in joyful anticipation of her wedding day. Little did either know God was about to step into their lives in an unalterable fashion.

As you read Luke 1, you cannot help but be impressed with their faith. The elder, Elizabeth, receives long-awaited news - she will have a God-given son whose sole purpose is to prepare the way for the Messiah. No doubt her heart rejoiced, for she had longed for a child, and the Jews had waited generations for this promised Messiah.

While her husband remains speechless, a child develops in her womb, and not just any child, a child filled with the Holy Ghost - John the Baptist, the one ordained by God to prepare the way of the Lord.

Then comes a gentle knock on the door as Mary comes to visit. Elizabeth's baby leaps in her womb as Mary tells about the visit of an angel and the promise of the Messiah - a baby boy to be named Jesus. God is at work, and Elizabeth exclaims, "Blessed is she that believed." Luke 1:45

And indeed, Mary is blessed. Her willingness to risk all and cast herself on the Lord is a beautiful part of the Christmas story. In Luke 1:38, she says, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." Blessed is she that believes, for through her obedience, we have a Saviour.

Blessed are we when we believe.

I've been meditating and thinking about what it looks like to be a person of belief. I've come to see it as calmness in the face of uncertainty, a resolve with confidence, and an indwelling power that gives wisdom and discernment. Walking by faith - believing - is not a blind walk. Instead, it is a confident, assured stride based on the knowledge of God's word, character, and promises.

And what is the blessing of belief? Answered prayer, inner assurance, and hope are three things that come to my mind. Several Scriptures attest to the blessing of belief. Have a look at just these few.

Matthew 21:22 read, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believe, ye shall receive.

Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

Romans 9:33, "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us love "believeth all things."

And 1 John 5:5 says, "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God."

Truly, we must believe, not only for salvation but also for service and Christian growth.

So, with Mary as our example, let's ask ourselves a few questions. Do we readily believe and accept God's word as truth, or do we try to bring our own reason to bear? Are we standing ready to obey and serve or do we hesitate and question? Would we cast our lives into God's hands as Mary did or do we hide behind self-made boundaries?

Let me show you just two words that assure us of Mary's attitude and words that could be ours if we believe.

In Luke 1:46, Mary uses the word magnify. Her heart was full of praise. Believing unto obedience does that! It reveals God's greatness and awe rises in our hearts.

In Luke 1:47, she says her spirit rejoices. Praise and thankfulness reign because those who believe discover the blessing is on the other side of obedience.

So, where do you stand? Are you a person who believes? Not just in the Christmas story but also in the Saviour? Have you experienced the blessing of obedience by believing? Is your heart full of awe and rejoicing in God's activity in your life?

Dear friend,

Because this idea of believing has caught my attention, I will stay on this subject through the coming two blogs, and I am also recording video lessons on this theme.  You can find them on YouTube by searching for my name. I hope they are a blessing to you. I know I have been very encouraged looking at the believing of Mary and Joseph. I pray your Christmas is one of believing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Week Forty-Nine - What Time is It?

Before you start reading, please take a good look at the picture below. It was shared on Facebook and caught my attention. You see, I have been praying about a situation for several years, and this past week God began opening doors for me to start walking through, or as the illustration shows, the time had come to start walking to the other side. 

I'm sure you can relate. We've all had times when we have prayed and prayed about a situation only to hear God tell us to wait - the time is not right. Maybe you are at that point now? Perhaps you have a need or prayer request that is being met with a "wait" or a "not yet."

Here's what I can tell you from my experience. 

First, waiting can be a hard place. The enemy wants you to become unsettled, try to figure things out for yourself, make moves to manipulate the situation or get things going. But if you do that, like Sarah and Rebekkah, you will be moving ahead of God - you won't walk across to the place God has planned for you, but you'll arrive in an area of more turmoil and incredible difficulty.

Waiting also requires wisdom. Wisdom to know the difference between pushing and trusting. Wisdom to keep your heart with all diligence. Wisdom to rest in the promises of God and not lose hope.

Waiting is also a private place. Some prayer requests are very personal. Opening them to the public before God reveals the answer only creates anxiety and pressure. Better to wait with hope and watch for God's hand than to make loads of noise.

When His glory shall be revealed - when God shows His hand, when He begins moving, you rejoice. Joy rises in your heart and you understand that your prayers are being met.

One verse, among many the Lord gave me while I have waited, and am still waiting, is Psalm 119:49, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." To me, this verse means I can rest my hopes in what God tells me. Through prayer, His Spirit, and His word, He gave me instruction to wait - He confirmed that with promises and encouragement along the way. And every time my heart grew anxious, He spoke gently and confidently to me through His word.  

Psalm 27:13, 14 is another short passage that resonates in my ears as I wait. "I had fainted, unless I had I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." To faint means to quit, but I also see it as having a weakness of heart, or to lose heart. Waiting long holds that temptation. But God assures me of His goodness, His purpose, and His instruction again - just wait.

And the promises of God abound while I wait. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11). "Call unto me, and I will answer thee" (Jeremiah 33:3). And many, many others. I rested my hope in the word of God.

So, I waited and prayed, like the woman pleading for crumbs or the man asking for bread at midnight, and God assured me through His word that He heard my prayer. There's a tremendous little portion on persistent prayer in Isaiah 62:6, 7, which reads, "ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and til he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." Now that's God's instruction for prayer! Give Him no rest! Keep praying. And when you get the answer to wait - wait. But when it comes to mind again - pray.

It is tempting to grow anxious and begin to think you are a fool for waiting, but this truth remains - God knows our need, and He has a plan. But, unfortunately, we sometimes just have to wait. This is because the hands of the clock aren't yet in the right place.  And remember, God knows our request before we even begin praying for it, He uses it to teach us more about Himself, and He already knows how it will all work out.

Now, as I see the anticipation of the answer to my prayers, I am thankful I have waited. But, I am also willing to continue waiting if need be, and when the hands of the dial are in the exact place, God will lead me across.

Dear friend, if you are in a place of waiting, content yourself. Don't fight against the Lord; just wait. Don't fret and stew; just wait. Don't lose hope; just wait. God will show Himself mighty to deliver in ways you cannot imagine. He rarely works things out the way we devise anyway. His plans are always for a greater purpose than just rescuing us from our situation. We'd be happy with just that, but He moves that we might glorify His name. He answers prayer that we might testify to His greatness. He meets our needs that we might be drawn to trust Him more fully.

So what time is it?  It is time to seek the Lord. Time to trust and wait. It is time to believe that all things truly do work together for good to those who love the Lord and are willing to entrust their lives and desires to His perfect will while they wait.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Week Forty-Eight - Getting Ready to Go!

In November, Tom and I traveled home for a reunion with the Gritts family that lasted four full days. Now, that's a lot of reunion, food, and fun! The following week we visited with old friends, more grandkids, and my side of the family. Those two weeks were packed full of sweet memories.

I got to thinking about the anticipation leading up to our journey. Back in January, when we traveled, things were very different. Then, we were traveling due to a bereavement, and the hurdles of traveling during Covid made everything difficult and expensive. But this time, things were much easier, and the expectation of a joyful reunion carried us through every flight.

You know, all of us who know the Lord will soon take a trip of joy with every expectation of a safe arrival and a great reunion. That trumpet will blow, and we will be ushered into the presence of our loving Lord. But what are we doing in preparation?

We ought to be getting ready to go! That would mean laying aside things that spoil the trip, like fear, unforgiveness, or a sour attitude. Sorting your baggage is another good idea. You won't be taking anything with you, so why let stuff bog you down now? Listening to the news and being duped into thinking this old world has the final say is to be listening to the wrong announcements. But oh, the joy when we lift our eyes and look to the future with anticipation and readiness.

The Bible talks about trimming our lamps - getting that Holy Spirit oil stored up and letting our lights shine brightly. It speaks of preparing our house - of putting things in order and knowing we are right with God, ready to stand before Him unashamed. It also calls us to be watching - looking for His appearing. And it talks about lifting Him up so others can also find the way.

Maybe you haven't even made your booking? If you don't know the Lord, now is the time to get that done, too. Today is the day of salvation. There is no need to wait for a better time. Eventually, we will all stand before the Lord. Better to have prepared now because there is no opportunity later.

So, what are you doing in preparation? Have you accepted Christ? Are you getting ready and bringing others with you or plodding along with your knees dragging in the mire of this world?  The future is bright, my friend, when you know the Lord. So, let's get ready to go!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Week Forty-Seven - Why?

This morning I had a couple hours to myself. So after tea, toast, and a bit of a jigsaw, I settled down to my Bible reading in the book of Job. Did I tell you I love the book of Job? It is full of interesting illustrations and honesty. Before I get to what I found today, let me share with you some things I already marked in my Bible.

Job 5:26 says, "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season." Isn't that a cool illustration? The ear of corn is ripe, fully formed, ready to pop with sweetness and plenty. That is what we are like as we age. At least, that is how God looks at it!

Job 5:2 reads, "For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one." How true!

Job 7:20 is brutally honest. Job says, "I am a burden to myself." Ever felt that way? I have. Yet, I'm so thankful God didn't see me as a burden and still carried me through. How about you?

Job 9:11 is another place we have all been. "Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not." God can seem elusive, but even if we can't see Him, He is still there! He never leaves or forsakes.

Well, I was in chapter twenty-three today. In verse 2, Job's complaint is bitter and his burden heavy. But where is God? Job can't find Him. He wants to argue with God about his situation and hear what God would say. Yet, even in the midst of his complaint, he knows God would not beat him down but instead, strengthen him (vs. 6).

He continues looking for God in verses 7-9 and then rests himself in this truth from verse ten. "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

So, Job decides to remain steadfast and trust in God's word (vs. 11, 12). Because he knows God has a perfect plan (vs. 13, 14). Though Job might be troubled and afraid of what God's plan includes, he knows it is God at work, softening Job's heart and stirring up his life, even though he wonders why he was left alive and why God allowed this trouble.

We sometimes wonder about life too, don't we? We complain and argue, can't see the why, how, or way through our trial, but look at where Job laid his resolve. God will strengthen. God knows where we are and has a purpose for our good in everything we experience. So we can choose to trust His word, His truth, even though we don't have the answers to "why?".

Next time you are struggling to find the answer to your why remember Job. It's okay to question but come to the same place. Verse 14 reads, "For he (God) performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him."  Only God knows the reasons why. 

I wrote in my journal, "Though I have no comparable heavy trial, I choose again to trust the Lord."

How about you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Week Forty-Six - The Seed Fiddle

There is a lovely TV show here in England called The Repair Shop where people bring in items with sentimental value to be restored or repaired by experts. It's a fascinating show. 

One night a man brought in a farm implement which he called a Seed Fiddle. I'd never seen one before. Let me see if I can explain what it looked like. It had a bag for holding seeds and a leather strap to go over the shoulder of the user.  At the front of the implement, there was a cog that was moved by a long bow being drawn back and forth at a steady pace. The cog dispensed the seed while the user walked down the row of the field. The moving of the cog and bow caused a type of whine or music. Hence, it is called a Seed Fiddle.

So why am I telling you that? Well, it caught my imagination as I thought about scriptures speaking of sowing seed.

Jesus tells the parable of the sower in the Gospels. The sower casts his seed and it falls in various places with different outcomes.

Psalm 126:5,6 teaches us the value of sowing seed in relation to evangelism. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

Ecclesiastes 11:6 encourages us to be sowing at all times. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."

We are instructed to sow for ourselves as well. "Sow to yourselves in righteouness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you." Hosea 10:12

John 4:36, 37 tells us we are all working together in this effort. "both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth."

But with all our sowing, one truth remains. 1 Corinthians 3:6, "God gives the increase."

So how is your sowing?  Is it liberal and consistent? Do you make a joyful noise as you scatter the word? Or do you need a bit of repair?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Week Forty-Five - Helium for my Soul

How burdened down do you feel? Are you dragging yourself through today and dreading doing the same tomorrow? Does everything feel too heavy? Well, let's take a look at Matthew 10:28-30.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart;
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Such a tremendous promise! And, such a powerful truth!  Just look at what this verse is saying.

Come to Him if you are tired and burdened down.  Come, and He will give you rest.

But what do we do? We forge on. We keep our to-do list revolving and go to bed exhausted. Our yoke of self-management is heavy and wearing us down, yet we can't seem to schedule in time to come before the Lord.

Take my yoke, He says. Learn of me. I'm not like you.

And, He isn't! Yet we don't seem to want His yoke because that would mean letting go of our plans. We avoid learning of Him because He is so opposite to our experience. Meekness and lowliness are not the call of the day. It takes fortitude, fighting, demanding, and all sorts of prideful emotions to live in our world. How would we ever survive if we were meek and lowly? So we press on feeling heavy and burnt out. 

Rest for your soul? Jesus really says He can give us that?

Yes, He does. But it doesn't come when the to-do list is complete or when we run off for a vacation. Instead, it comes in the heat of the day when we realize what this verse is telling us. 

Come in the middle of your exhaustion. Come when the battle is hottest. Come when you recognize it is all too much. Stop! You are creating yokes the Lord never intended you to carry.  

Come back to your center. Back to His sufficiency for His yoke is easy, and His burden is not heavy.

He brings us to the light; we struggle in darkness. He gives purpose; we wander in confusion. He gives confidence; we hesitate in doubt. 

This verse isn't just about exchanging weight for lightness. It is about learning a different way to do life. Here's what I've found. When the road gets heavy, when frustration is my bed-fellow, or I catch myself intently scheming and planning, I know I am carrying the wrong yoke.

The yoke of Jesus looks like this - it is God-sufficient instead of self-sufficient. Is God-reliant instead of self-reliant. It is praiseworthy instead of burdensome. It is hopeful instead of disheartening.

All I have to do is look at the outcome of my efforts, and I can see if that yoke is mine or His. 

So where are you today? Is that yoke around your neck one you placed there yourself? Are you unwilling to let it go? Why not lay it aside and pick up a gentler one?

Dane Ortlund wrote, "What helium does to a balloon, Jesus' yoke does to his followers." Let Him lighten your load.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Week Forty-Four - He Who Hesitates Loses

Tom and I enjoy watching old Western movies. These black and white films with villains and outlaws, heroes and heroines are somewhat predictable but still entertaining. Must usually, when the bad guy gets confronted with exposure, he hesitates. It's a dead give-away that he is guilty. 

I got to thinking more about this when I read this statement in my devotion. "Mixed motives make for slow responses." (Chris Tiegreen) The author uses the example of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda.  He's been there for thirty-eight years, waiting to be healed. Jesus asks him a simple question. "Wilt thou be made whole?" "Do you want to be healed?"  You would think a resounding "Yes" would be his answer, but no.  The man hesitates and gives an excuse. "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me." (John 5:7)

How many times are we guilty of the same? We have an apparent need, but we hesitate. Why? The devotion brought up the idea that maybe the man feared the dramatic change healing would bring. After all, there would be questions about how he was healed. And he doesn't seem to realize he is speaking to Jesus. Or, if he does, he knows the religious leader will not be pleased. Either way, he hesitates.

Are we like the invalid? We say we want deliverance from our sin, but we can't take our eyes off them. We say we are finished with our lousy attitude but continue thinking negative critical thoughts. We want our prayers answered but wonder if freedom will mean we don't get the same attention or sympathy? We ask for the filling of the Spirit but remain scared to death of what might be asked of us. We love freedom but are comfortable captives. When confronted with faith, we hesitate.

Our response reveals our underlying motives. Sometimes we don't even recognize them, and when we do, we hesitate and shy away, fearing exposure, unable or unwilling to address and abandon them. Jesus, as he did with the invalid, speaks directly to us. He is brutally and lovingly honest. Do you want to be healed? Then you must lay aside these undercurrents and rise, take up your bed, and walk. Following Christ is an unhesitating action. 

We need not fear. Our Lord knows our hearts, just as He knew the heart and apprehension of this man at the pool.  And we are the same, unable to mend ourselves, hesitant to believe Christ can, but challenged to believe.

Lord, expose and remove ill motives from my life. I see them in little flashes that cause me to feel guilt and hesitate to follow, but you see me through and through with deep and genuine love. Purify my heart and motives by your word and help me to not hesitate but follow faithfully.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Week Forty-Three - Captivated

When reading through your Bible is an annual exercise, you begin noticing how God weaves golden threads in even the darkest of books. For example, Isaiah is a book of woes and judgment but interspersed are precious jewels of hope and praise that captivate your thoughts and energize your soul. So pick up your Bible, and let's go through a few verses as we mine out some diamonds.

Isaiah 32:17 promises God's people peace, quietness, and assurance forever. 33:6 tells us that wisdom and knowledge are where we find stability, strength, and treasure. In 33:22, we read our Lord is the judge, lawgiver, and King. He will save us. 34:16 assures us God's word will not fail. And in 35:4, we are told to be strong because God will avenge, recompense, and save. He will come!

Not bad for just five verses, huh? But let's read on.

Isaiah 40:4 is a great verse. Here God says He will make the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth. What a tremendous promise. In 40:8, we are again assured that His word will stand. And no matter how long it takes, 42:4, He will not be discouraged but keep working to His plan. 42:8 tells us God is determined and will not give His glory to anyone else. In 46:11, God affirms His purpose and determination. So, 43:5, we need not fear because He is with us. 43:1, we are His.

Along with these encouraging and affirming promises is a repeated phrase, 44:8, 45:6, 46:9, etc. - "I am the Lord, and there is none else."

Through all the woes and judgments, God points His saints to hope, faith, and confidence in His word and ability. We are living in a time of great turmoil and uncertainty. Would we not be wise to draw on the promises and assurances here in the book of Isaiah to help us stand? I think so.

David knew the power of the word to sustain him during hard times. He also knew where to place his hope, "Hope thou in God for I shall yet praise him." (Psalm 42:5)

In Psalm 119:49, 50, David wrote, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast cause me to hope." Are you that focused? Hoping solely in God's promises?

Let's be captivated by the Word and our God because - there is none else.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Week Forty-Two - Open Up

I am so ready to put this pandemic behind us and hang out the Open sign! How can we be salt and light when we are hiding away from coronavirus? Fear puts us indoors and away from people who need love and care. And if we aren't careful, we will learn to feel safe only inside our personal cage as we hurdle toward the end of days watching society decay as we hide under the bushel instead of letting our little lights shine.

My heart and prayers go out to those who need compassion and light. In a world already condemned, people need to hear about the healing, saving hand of Jesus who came to restore and reconcile them to God. That is our calling. That is our purpose. How can we do that while closed? How will they find the help they need unless we share Him with them? How can we open up?

I thought of a few things we can do, even while in our cage!  

1.  We can call and talk. It is so important to hear another voice. And when you call, don't complain and talk about the pandemic. Make your conversation upbeat and positive. Talk about happy things like new babies or weddings or a new recipe. You don't have to talk long, even five minutes of nice conversation expressed with love and concern can lift someone's day - and it will help yours, too.  So make it a habit to call one person each day. And don't call the same person. Spread your love around.

2. 100 cups of coffee. My daughter used this challenge and it worked great. She made it her goal to have 100 cups of coffee throughout the year with different people. She meet them at a coffee house or invited them to her front porch, as restrictions allowed, but it kept her eyes open as she looked for another person to share coffee with.  Maybe you can't do 100 cups, but set yourself a goal and see if you can't open up to more people, even over a cup of coffee. It only costs you a few bucks and an hour of your day.

3. Hallmark it! Cards are still gratefully received. Just a nice thinking of you, thank you, or a blank card with a handwritten thought can brighten someone's day and allow you to open your heart to others.

4. Zoom/Facetime it! With today's technology, there is no excuse for staying closed. And most of it comes free. I've had no end of fun these past 18 months playing a card game with my son who lives in Spain. Each Sunday evening we Facetime and play two rounds while we chat and catch up. It has helped both of us stay in contact and not feel so isolated while we interact cage to cage!

5. Get out of your comfort zone. Be brave. Get back to church, go to a shop, walk around the block. Do some commission work. Do you know what that is? It's sharing the love of Jesus. However you can do that, don't stop telling others of His love and His return. Keeping your eyes on Him and opening up the door of your cage to spread the gospel brings light and warmth to your heart.

These are five easy things you can do to open up. Let me challenge you though, if you sit waiting for others to do this for you, you have gotten the wrong end of the stick. We should all be open and doing - not waiting for others to take care of us first. Joy and comfort come from giving, not receiving.  It is more blessed to give than receive. Both get a blessing, but the giver gets the bigger portion. So open up. Push aside your cage door and venture out and let your little light shine!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Week Forty-One - Draw the Line

I took a day off today. I started with my usual routine of devotions and breakfast, then did one productive job and drew the line. Sometimes you just must stop!

Even when nothing is wrong, you aren't totally exhausted, or there is no significant event pushing you to keep going, it is still the wisest and best to take a day off. Why? Because your body, soul, and mind need time to refresh.

That evening I felt ready to forge on with my schedule and the upcoming events while I whispered  a little prayer of thanks for the time spent just hanging out with friends. We had no agenda, no real plan; we just took six hours to wander around and enjoy being together.  Perfect day off!

How often do we forget our built-in need for a break? How often do we push and push until all we feel is pushed out of shape? Too often, I'd say. At least I tend to be that way. But when I take time to walk away, leaving my to-do list lying by the computer and my phone in the car, the benefit is a blessing.

Mark 6:31 records Jesus' thought on taking a day off when He says to the disciples, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat."

I've been in that spot. Have you? When even taking time for a meal felt wasteful and I had to eat so hurriedly it upset my system. 

When life gets this hectic and demanding, we ought to see the warning signals. Our bodies were not made to keep going without a measure of rest. Pushing them too far causes the organs to break down and the wear and tear to show on our faces. We are much more beautiful when we are restful, relaxed, and energized.

So today, why not take a few hours to retreat to a desert place - a place of no productivity, no pressure, no agenda, just time with your family or friends. Or even time alone! It will do you a world of good to draw the line.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Week Forty - Verbal Diarrhea

Oh, some people are big talkers, especially on social media. They aren't afraid to use foul language, post rude or harsh comments, or angrily spout their political opinions. And when the Facebook police censor them, they rant and complain, either not realizing, or ignoring the fact that one day we will all give account for every idle word, every ill-advised post, to the Judge in heaven.

Matthew 12:36 reads, "every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account. For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

God knows our tendency to speak before we think, and He knows the damage caused by our ill-advised words. So in James 3:5-11, He confronts us, saying our tongues are boastful, full of iniquity, untameable, poisonous, and bitter. 

The book of Proverbs repeatedly cautions us about opening our mouths. We are warned against gossip and injuring others in Proverbs 16:27-28, 17:9, 18:8. We are assured that our words not only have the power to destroy others but ourselves as well in Proverbs 18:6,7 and 10:14. We could spend a lot of time going through Proverbs on this subject, but if you struggle with verbal diarrhea, take time to study and apply what you learn. You'll soon find your word count diminishing and your peace and wisdom on the rise.

Let's go back to James 3 and look at the source of our words. Here's where we find the problem. Verse 13 poses a question - "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?"  The answer to recognizing a person of wisdom, God says, is by their life and words.

If their wisdom is godly and profitable, it will produce these qualities - peace, purity, gentleness, openness, mercy, good fruits, and honesty of character. And the result of such a life is peace.

But if, like those who spout hateful, boastful words, these qualities are more evident - bitterness, envy, rebellion against the truth, anger, evil, and confusion (vs. 14-16), you can know they are coming not from a peaceful heart, but a bitter and angry spirit. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks, right?

Here's how I see it. A person can brag and boast and be very opinionated, which drives people away and creates more strife. Or they can measure their words with grace, season them with salt, and draw men to peace. 

When the time comes for the accounting, I'd much prefer to stand unashamed than condemned and embarrassed for my vocal and social indiscretions. And right now, people need words of comfort spoken with love and grace and words that lift up our Master. So let's make our words measured and few and our grace toward others generous. Don't you agree?

Let me leave you with Proverbs 17:27-28, "He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Week Thirty-Nine - A Fixer-Upper

I love those fixer-upper house shows. Since I always wanted to be an architect and design houses, I marvel at what they can do and want to get my hands dirty with them. I still have a dream of building my own tiny house someday. Maybe the Lord will grant my wish, maybe not, but I still enjoy watching others.

Today's devotional reading reminded me that though we are his children, we choose where we live - in the flesh or in the Spirit. The application sounded like a fixer-upper. Here's some of what it said.

"It must astonish God that many of us neglect our source and revert to the insufficiency of human ingenuity and resourcefulness, when we have a supernatural source readily available...We are so accustomed to our old nature - it is comfortable despite its weakness - that we forget to invite the power of God to live in us."

How often are we guilty of living in our comfort zone - even to our detriment - just because we have grown used to our old nature? It's like the people in those shows. They've grown accustomed to the odd floors, creaking doors, and broken faucets. But the time has come to call in help - to fix things up. They have come to the end of themselves and are calling in the pros!

If we are living in the flesh, we are going to face the same dilemma. Our status-quo will grow tiresome, and we will see and feel the cracks and creaks in our lives, sounds that remind us things aren't as they could be.

It's time to bring in the Heavenly Repair Man! To vacate self and let Him do a work in our lives. We need some fresh light, some foundation work, more doors of service, some rearranging, a welcoming entry, space for hospitality, and all evidence of the old man removed. We need a complete renovation.

How does it happen? We must turn over the keys and step aside. We must yield to the Professional's advice and trust Him to do the work we cannot do ourselves. Our part is called humility and repentance.

"Oh, Lord, come in and cleanse this house. Make me over anew. Shine light into this darkened space and put Your stamp on my life. I'm tired of living with patched walls and broken stairs. I need Your capable hand to reconstruct and renovate this life You have given me. I choose, Lord, to live in Your Spirit. Fix me up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Week Thirty-Eight - Just a Little More Compassion

Isaiah 55:8 is our consideration for today.  God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." 

Let's put that together with Lamentations 3:22-23, where Jeremiah records, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, Because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is thy faithfulness."

God's thoughts toward us are good and infused with compassion and mercy because He understands what we endure and genuinely cares. His thoughts and compassions are higher than the heavens and faithfully encompass every generation, individual, and all eternity. That's a lot to take in, isn't it? Our thoughts don't extend to such consistent compassion.

Personally, I can get cynical and weary of the whining, fussing, and droning around me. Sometimes I think, "Why don't people just suck it up and get on with life by loving each other and being kind?" Maybe my attitude comes from age and experience, or perhaps, it is evidence of my personal lack of mercy and compassion.

Call it what you will; we all spend too much time complaining and thinking we are hard done by compared to the grace, mercy, and compassion afforded us by our Lord. So, praise the Lord; God is in control and not me. Otherwise, some people would be sent to their rooms without supper!

As I prayed and meditated on God's immense compassion, I was humbled again to see my own deep need for love, understanding, and a caring heart. God is the only one who can adequately meet that need, touch my heart, and give me a hug big enough to make me feel better. 

Flowers won't do. Chocolate is a temporary fix - except on the hips. And even tokens of kindness are short-lived compared to a compassionate hug from the Everlasting Arms. 

So, as I sit in my cozy corner wrapped in a special red afghan, listening to the morning raindrops, I know God is here with me. His thoughts are on a higher plain and His mercies, for me and for others, are renewed each morning. His compassions fail not - mine are fleeting.

Lord, grant me the grace to extend to others what you so graciously and faithfully extend to me. Give me, Lord, just a little more compassion!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Week Thirty-Seven - AVA

The other day my niece put up a Facebook post that reminded me of a teaching I enjoyed and still continue to use. Her post was about racism, abortion, and euthanasia. I'm not going to directly get into those topics, but I think we can look at some Bible principles that guide our position on these issues and others facing this generation.

Her post read, "The importance of the concept of men and women as bearers of God's image speaks to the dignity and worth of each human being. No one person can be considered more like the Creator than another. In addition, every life, whether in the beginning stages or at the end of days, shares the same value before God. This fact should encourage Christians with two important truths:

1. You should seek to protect life at every stage because every stage is valuable.
2. You should never hold racist beliefs because all humans bear the image of God."

When I consider these things, I place myself in their position and walk a mile in their moccasins. If I were the unborn child or the aged person - how would I want to be treated or valued? If my skin color or nationality were in the minority - how would I want to be included or what would I hope to add to the community around me?

The Golden Rule applies here - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Isn't it amazing how simply God puts it?

I want to share with you a teaching the Lord gave me years ago when I had to speak on women's rights. It was an odd topic for a Bible study, but I have never forgotten what I learned and when I come to these issues we are referring to today, it creates for me a way of viewing all of humanity regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. It's easy to remember - I call it AVA.

We all have equal Access to God.

    He hears the prayers of every soul that calls to Him.
    He is open to all who will believe.
    Even for those who have not heard, the Bible says, creation reveals God.

We all have equal Value to God.

    He is no respector of persons.
    He loves and cares for each of us as His creation.
    He has a plan and purpose for every individual.

We are all equally Accountable to God.

    God's standard is the same for each of us.
    We will all eventually stand before Him.
    And, we will all be held accountable for what we did with Christ, and how we treated each other.

So, with equal access, equal value, and equal accountability, there comes a level playing field. No one person is greater than the other in God's eyes. Oh, we might have job descriptions that place us in different categories and levels of responsibility. Or, we might have educational differences, but laying those things aside, we all come from the same place and all end up standing before a holy God.

For me, this little AVA directive reminds me of two important things.

1. I am never going to meet anyone God does not love. And so, I should treat them with respect in honor to His name.

2. Accountability. I think this is the missing key in today's society. Understanding and accepting my personal accountability causes me to measure my responses. But equally - others will also be held accountable for their actions. But I am not the one to whom they must answer - God is. And since we are all equally accountable, I am best to keep myself in the love of God, treat others with care and respect, and leave the judging of their actions to Him.

Equal access, equal value, and equal accountability. So simple, yet so worth using as a guide in life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Week Thirty-Six - I

Do you ever spend time beating yourself up with negative words about yourself to yourself? Well, I have just one thought for you today. Read slowly and breathe it in deeply.

I is a hard taskmaster.
I whispers self-condemning words.
I devalues progress.
I demands perfection.
I tries to hide.
I is a liar.
I steals joy.
I quenches hope.
I breaks relationships.
I genders loneliness.
I is stubborn and proud.
I is never satisfied.
I must die daily, so
I can be assured.
I can be humble.
I find fellowship.
I have hope.
I rejoice.
I live honestly.
I am open.
I have peace with imperfection.
I grow and develop.
I hear words of truth.
I can rise with Him.
And so,
I can follow the Master.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Week Thirty-Five - Stick with Your Assignment

Chris Tiegreen makes a point I am coming, with age, to understand. "Jesus didn't try to do more than He was assigned."

Many times, Jesus retired for a time of solitude, even while needy people wanted His attention. Not every leper was cleansed; not every diseased person was healed. There were still the poor and deprived. Jesus even said they would always be there. He didn't just stay busy for busyness' sake! No, instead of trying to heal everyone and fix every problem, He focused on the work God had given Him to do. He accomplished it and didn't stray from His mission.

In John 17:4, Jesus says, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." Jesus stuck with His assignment and praise the Lord He did, for His assignment was our salvation.

How often are we guilty of taking on too much, trying to fix every problem, and thinking we can make everyone happy or satisfy every request? It is soul-destroying to think we can do everything and a huge waste of effort.

Tiegreen writes, "It will not mean that we were everything everyone else expected of us. It will not mean that we worked so hard that we're sure we managed to accomplish God's will sometime during all our activity, although we're not sure when. It will not mean that we addressed every situation for which we felt sympathy, or gave to every organization or missionary that said they needed our financial support. It will simply mean that we discerned God's will for our lives and devoted ourselves to accomplishing it by the power of His Spirit. May we be single-minded for that goal."

I have often wondered why my missionary career has been in England. Here, I do loads of administration and very little seeking tribes in the dark jungle. Here, I live as well or better than in the States instead of in a grass hut. Here, the weather is fine, no scorching heat or rain forests on my island. Here, I travel by car, bus, and train instead of a donkey cart. And yet, this is the place God has for me - His will for me - my assignment.

Oh, Lord, may I do all as unto you. Knowing my reward and worth are based on my attitude and faithfulness in service. So, whatsoever I am tasked to do today, may all be done for Your glory!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Week Thirty-Four - Why the Storm?

My husband and I enjoy reading the same devotion book throughout the year. It gives us something to talk about and keeps us spiritually on the same page. This year we are reading Chris Tiegreen's devotional, One Year at His Feet. Several weeks ago, he wrote about storms, and his thought stuck fast with me. I want to share it with you today.

In Matthew 8:26, Jesus says to his disciples, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?"

Chris Tiegreen writes, "One of the hindrances to a faithful response to Jesus in the storms of our lives is our acute awareness that He let us get into the storm to begin with. We would rather have a Savior who didn't sleep in the back of the boat. We would prefer that He navigate us around the storms rather than deliver us from the middle of them. But our God has never guarded His people from storms. He even lets us suffer in them sometimes. Why?"

I'd never really had those thoughts, but I can see what he is saying. If God is in control, why do we have to experience storms? Why doesn't He direct us away from them?

His answer is, "Jesus could have navigated His company around that storm. It blew up without warning, but the Lord of creation isn't surprised by anything. He knew about the Cross ahead of time, and He knew about this storm. But if He had let the disciples avoid it, they would never have known Him as the Master of the winds and the waves. They wouldn't have asked the questions: "What kind of man is this?" (v.27). They would not have known Jesus as their Deliverer that day."

Oh, and my heart leapt right there! Jesus, our deliverer! How many times have I known Him to be so! Praise the Lord for the storms in my life that revealed His power to deliver. 

These storms come so we will know HIm. "When we avoid the dangerous waters, we avoid the Deliverer...some of His characteristics can only be discovered in the deep, treacherous waters...we can't really know the Deliverer unless we need deliverance."

And my heart rejoiced again! "We can't really know the Deliverer unless we need deliverance." Playing it safe, cowering when challenged, or avoiding hard situations is an indicator that we don't fully understand the power of our Deliverer. He is the one who accompanies us through every storm. He delivers when we need deliverance. We need not be fearful or faithless.

God is fully aware of the storms around us. This pandemic was not a surprise. The fires, earthquakes, and floods are still under His control. And the impending human disaster in the Middle East was known by Him before it ever hit the airwaves.

So here's the thing - if life were easy and things always went our way, we would have little need for faith and even less need for a Deliverer. Instead, storms help us see our need and remind us of our inadequacies and inability to control life. And that is not a bad thing. Our faith increases as we see God mighty to deliver. Zephaniah 3:17 reads, "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save." He will deliver!

Are you in a storm? Do you need a Deliverer? What a wonderful place to be, for God loves to show His power to His children. He will deliver. He is the Master of the storm. Cry out to Him today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Week Thirty-Three-Be Different

I saw a FaceBook post that read, “As Christians, we can't make a difference if we're not different.”

Oh, how we need a difference made in our world today. It is disheartening to see fires, earthquakes, destabilization of countries, evil, and exploitation. Add all that to the pandemic, and I think it is fair to say we are living in a time of great woe!

But I remind myself, as I remind you, that we need not look at the world in despair; we should look to see what they need. They need Christ! And God has tasked us with that assignment. As his ambassadors, we have a different hope, a different purpose, a different message, a different mindset, and a different destination!

Through His Spirit, we live in hope of the fulfillment of His word.  I love Psalm 119:49, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." God's word tells us how this old world will play out, and yet it gives us hope as overcomers, and we rest ourselves solidly in the promises of God and His word, which shall never pass away.

Our purpose is to serve and glorify Christ. Colossians 3:23 reads, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." That is our purpose. And His purpose? God's will is that all be saved. And He works all things according to the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11). This gives us confidence and a measure by which we can base decisions and determine direction.

We have a message of love, forgiveness, and salvation. John 3:16 rings true. The love of God is still there for every human being. No matter what ethnicity or religious persuasion, God offers salvation through His Son to those who will call upon him. Our job is to proclaim this message.

We work from a mindset of care and compassion, for this is the way of Christ. "He was kind to the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35). He requires from us a different response to enemies. (Matthew 5:44). We walk that extra mile and offer that cup of cold water that He might be lifted up, and all men be drawn to Him.

And we have a solid assurance of heaven (1 John 5:11-13). Paul wrote, "To live is Christ, to die is gain" (Philippians 1:19). Our destination is secure in Christ.

The world has none of this. They have no voice or guide pointing them to hope; they live in anger, guilt, and fear. They do not know the assurance of heaven or the purpose of God. Their god comes to destroy. Our God comes to seek and save. And, they do not work from a mindset of care and compassion, only exploitation and greed. 

But they can be different - if we will share the Good News, find the courage to act in love, and reach out instead of running in fear.

Christian, be fervently on your knees. Prepare your heart to share your faith. Live in a way that exhibits hope and confidence in Christ. Let your light shine and be different from the world around you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Week Thirty-Two - Pry Yourself Off

I took my oldest two children for swimming lessons when they were very young. My son, only six months old, really enjoyed the water and happily began swimming. However, Sally, my oldest daughter, latched on to me with all her strength. I literally had to pry her off. She did not trust the water! It was embarrassing. She was the only child there screaming and crying as I tried to teach her to relax, hold her breath, and float. She finally got it, but I doubt she ever appreciated the lessons!

Sometimes we are like Sally. We don't like the situation around us or the lesson the Lord wants us to learn, so we latch onto anything that feels safe rather than trust the Lord and swim in His grace. Thoughts like, What if something goes wrong? What if I get sick? What if I don't have enough money? What if I fail? push us to fear.  And the more we worry and grasp, the larger our fear grows and the tighter we cling.

We will never learn the depth of God's grace and ability while hanging on to our self-made safety net. This is so akin to deceiving ourselves. We prefer control - self-control. We want things easy and not fearful. We strive to create boundaries and parameters that protect us from harm, but they are all false. We do not have that much control of life. Yet, every time we encounter difficult situations, we start thinking about how we want them to turn out and obsess about everything that could go wrong instead of laying them before the Lord and trusting the water!

There's an interesting little article I read about how to survive drowning. Listen to these pieces of advice. "Float, don't swim to avoid drowning. Fight your instincts, not the water, to help stay alive. Sudden immersion in cold water triggers the instinctive but life-threatening reaction to gasp uncontrollably and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning. (The Mirror, Alice Wojcik, 25 May 2017)

Do you see the correlation between drowning and our irrational fear? When we are faced with these difficult, scary situations, our knee-jerk reaction is similar. We hyperventilate, try harder, and follow our instincts.

God says, instead of gasping for air, relax. Even the air you breathe is a gift of God. So take a deep breath. He already knows about the situation and the outcome. You can trust him. "What time I am afraid?"  Remember that verse? "I will trust in thee," the Bible tells us. (Psalm 56:3)  

Instead of trying harder, buoy yourself in the water of the Word. 1 Corinthians 3:7 reminds us that God gives the increase. He is in charge. Ephesians 1:11 assures us that everything works according to the purpose of his will. There are loads of other scriptures to hold you up and point you to His strength instead of your own. So, there's no need to be flapping about!  These verses serve as life jackets so make sure they are strapped on!

And, in place of following your instincts, choose to follow Him. Let go of whatever you are grasping on to and follow God's instructions. This choice will take you straight to the "I will" passages of Scripture. I will trust, I will sing. I will obey. And you will find Psalm 94:19 so true, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul."  

Like learning to swim, learning to trust the Lord takes time, and you get stronger along the way.  So, pry yourself off your circumstances and start grabbing hold of God.           

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Week Thirty-One - As the World Turns

I've never really been one to watch soap operas, but my mother did. One she followed was, As the World Turns. Today, we don't often call them soap operas; we say we are watching a series, but the idea is similar. There is a storyline running through each episode, drawing us to keep coming back for more.

I began thinking about this as I read Ecclesiastes. Similar to our leading characters, Solomon looked for things to satisfy his fleshly appetites. He wanted more from life, so he explored every pleasure. He tried to figure life out and found only dead-end roads. He was at the top of the mountain, so to speak, but even there, nothing satisfied.

As I look at my own life, I remember times when I have felt the same; like the world turns to no purpose. Everything is empty and vain and holds nothing for me. I'm just a pawn in the grander scheme.

Do you know what conclusion came to Solomon? Remember, he is the wisest man who ever lived. He was rich beyond our wildest imagination, and no pleasure, exploit, or desire was withheld from him. His conclusion? Enjoy what you have; it is your portion from the hand of God. Solomon came back to a humble, loving response to an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator.

I don't know about you, but when I allow my A-type personality to settle into this truth, I find great comfort. There is no need to prove myself, no need for great works or mighty words of earthly wisdom, just a gentle, contented, thankful heart for what God has lovingly placed around me. 

When I get back into my place, life takes on a healthier meaning. That old song, Count Your Blessings, begins ringing in my ears, and I start taking stock of my portion - a safe and cozy home, a loving family, good health, food on the table, the beauty of creation, the fellowship of His Spirit, the powerful working of the Word in my heart, and the good hand of God upon me. What more could I ask?

This old world continues turning. Solomon told us many years ago that the sun faithfully rises and sets, the wind and waters move to a never-changing cycle, and there is no new thing under the sun. All of these are beyond our control but under the control of God. "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it...why?...that men should fear before him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

I walked away more peacefully that day and remembered another scripture, 2 Corinthians 4:18, "For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." 

This reminded me that with all its sadness, temptations, and pleasures, this old world will pass away, but my soul is eternal. I have eternal life, and I am happiest when I am thankful for my portion and live with expectant contentment while this old world spins to its end.

How about you? Do you feel caught in a never-ending soap opera? Like there is no end to troubles and no purpose to life? Why not stop and take stock of where you are, thankfully accept the portion God has given, and lift your focus beyond this world.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Week Thirty - Hanging on Nothing

Do you ever wake up with an idea floating in your head? I do. I wake with vivid images and sometimes exciting prospects and ideas. It drives my husband crazy. Thankfully for him, I don't follow through with the majority of them. But the other day, I woke with a thought that I had to write down, and I wanted to share it today.

My mind's image was of this little planet we call Earth hanging on nothing - suspended in space with only the power of God keeping it in position. Then, I tried to imagine what would happen if the Law of Gravity lost its power. We would simply fall off!  Like those space programs, where the little astronaut falls out of the ship and goes floating across the galaxy, we would all be drifting aimlessly into the abyss of darkness or be fried by the heat of the sun. Who knows! I'm not adequately educated in space science, but my mind drew its own pictures.

As I allowed my imagination to entertain this quandary, another much wiser thought took control. Have you ever heard of laminin? Laminin is a cell adhesion molecule in our body. Like glue, it holds the membranes of our bodies together and has the shape of a cross. I don't think that is an accident of science, especially when it read Colossians 1:17, "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." So Jesus was not only active in creation, but he is the one who holds all things together. And then I thought, Jesus is gravity!

He is gravity both in the sense of holding this universe together and in the idea of our being grounding, solid, and having our feet firmly planted in truth because He is the truth. So our Saviour is as secure as the fact that our bodies won't come unglued, and we won't randomly fall off this planet.

There is another scripture in Jeremiah 31:35, 36 which reads, "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for the light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever." In other words, God's design for the sun, moon, and waters stands forever. It is unchangeable and fully reliable. That is how secure we can be in God.

And our faith, our wavering, puny faith, needs to be ground and glued to the fact of the reliability and consistency of our God. He will not let us fall apart. He holds us together. We can be firmly planted in that truth. Jesus is gravity both in the physical sense of holding the universe together and spiritually as a place in which we rest our faith.

This world doesn't hang on nothing; it hangs on God's power. It was spoken into existence by his word, which will endure to the end. And our lives aren't hanging on nothing either. We have an all-powerful, eternal God and Saviour lovingly and purposefully holding us together.

So today, don't fall apart. Instead, plant your feet firmly in the Saviour's love and let him hold you together!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Week Twenty-Nine - Treat Me Gently

Today, I'm enjoying time with special friends. You know the kind - the ones with whom you feel comfortable, the ones who allow you to be yourself as you draw strength from each other?

    Leslie Weatherhead said, "A true friend is one to whom you can tip out all of the contents of your heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away."

   I am challenged to think, "Am I that kind of friend? Do I allow people to tip out the contents of their hearts? Do my friends see me as a safe place to share burdens?

There is a short passage in James 3:17 that holds a little phrase, "easily intreated." Do you know what that means? It means easily drawn, sincere and open, approachable, and has the idea of compliance and diplomacy. The passage describes wisdom, but we can relate this easily to the qualities of a good friend. There are other characteristics here in James 3 that also translate into friendship, qualities like purity, peace, gentleness, mercy, and acceptance. So, what kind of friend are you when these definitions are applied?

Another question we might ask ourselves is, "When my friends share their hearts, can I tell the difference between windy words and words of meaning, or do I throw in my junk and create more drama? We all need that place to dump our stuff on the table and get some help sorting things out. Sometimes, just hearing our junk in words or looking at the mess is all we need. A good friend knows we will most usually find our way to the truth if they lend a listening ear.

Let me give you a word of warning here. When your friend comes to offload, they don't want to hear, "I told you so, or "Well, that happened to me too." They just want you to listen. If you jump on the bandwagon with them, you aren't helping them solve their problem; you become another weight for them to carry, and add fuel to the fire. So learn, learn, learn, to be a good listener.

That brings us to some other questions, "Am I gentle with my friends? Or judgmental? Am I considerate or harsh? Am I patient or eagerly waiting to tell my side of the story? I've known times when I have borne my heart to someone I considered a friend only to have them turn on me with words that didn't answer my quandary or added to my heaviness. My heart stopped as I realized I had poured my heart out to someone cold and calculating. They revelled in the morsels of my pain and offered no soothing balm. They were not a safe place. So let's be warned - don't be this type of friend. Keep your heart and lips from harsh, judging words and seek to be a safe place.

Ask yourself these questions. "Do my words have the aroma of kindness? Do my friends trust I will not injure them, even if I have to speak the truth in love? Do I bathe my words in prayer before they escape my lips?"

There's a fine line between speaking the truth in love and slicing someone with a spiteful knife. When your friend lays open their heart, they are making themselves vulnerable. They aren't sure you will understand, might not be confident they have explained themselves fully, and could even be harboring condemning guilt over a situation. They need your gentle hand - the gentlest touch - that will lovingly and carefully help them unravel their fears and find the way to truth. Or, as Leslie Weatherhead put it, "sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away." Remember, they have placed the gift of confidence in you, and you, as their friend, have the utmost responsibility to not injure them but point them to hope in Christ.

We are all looking for a friend like this, and we cherish the ones who fill this bill. But the question for us today is, what type of friend am I?

Dear one, if you have been disappointed or let down, let me assure you there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. This friend will never disappoint, never misunderstand, and never deal harshly. Take your stuff to Him. Lay it all out on the table and watch Him gently breathe His love into your situation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Week Twenty-Eight - The Good Hand of God

Last week, I asked you to join me in an unspoken prayer request. Thank you to the many who reached out and added it to your prayer time. I can now share what prompted my request. 

My oldest daughter had gone to the ear doctor due to significant hearing loss. This prompted the scheduling of an MRI on the Friday before the 4th of July. As they looked to see what might be causing her hearing problem, a small brain tumor was discovered. That moved her into the hands of a neurosurgeon, and an appointment was quickly made for the following Wednesday.

At the consultation, he explained that the tumor is not the cause of her hearing loss but must be addressed. It is not cancerous but requires treatment to prevent future problems. It is called a meningioma. She will need 2-4 treatments by radiation to reduce the tumor, and then, she will be regularly monitored.

This past Friday, she had a follow-up appointment with her ear doctor. He began rejoicing in the Lord for the timing and results of the MRI, the good surgeon she had been given, and the speed in which she was being seen. Her first treatment will be on July 22nd. He saw this as the hand of God protecting her and went on to explain, these types of tumors don't usually present themselves until someone has a seizure. Praise the Lord; it was caught before anything untoward happened. They will look more at her hearing loss after the procedure is completed with the brain tumor.

During my Bible reading a few weeks ago, a short phrase kept catching my attention, "the good hand of our God upon us. (Ezra 7:6, 9, 28, 8:18, 22, 31, and Nehemiah 2:8) I remember meditating on how God's hand had often appeared in my life, and when this current situation presented itself, I found great peace knowing God's hand of protection was around my daughter. He moved everything to the exact time and position for this tumor to be found. Only He can do that!

You know, answers to prayer do not always mean an immediate solution. Sometimes, God's plan means using a situation to point us upward or teach us to trust Him further. The resolution might involve a process, but His good hand takes us through. My daughter has a path ahead of her, but God will remain by her side, and so will all our prayers. Thank you.

I ask you to hold her up in prayer as she faces radiation, and please, continue praying for the lost ones around her. May they see the good hand of God actively at work, and may He draw them to Himself.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Week Twenty-Seven - Prayer Request

It's Tuesday evening, and tomorrow morning my blog should be ready. It isn't. I am staring at the computer, searching through files for ideas, and praying about what to write. Why? Well, sometimes it's hard to express all that is happening.  And sometimes, while you are waiting on the Lord, you must also wait before you share. So today, let me begin by asking for prayer - prayer for God's graciousness and mercy in an unspoken situation.

My husband and I are using Chris Tiegreen's devotional, At His Feet. A couple weeks ago, he wrote a group of devotions around the idea of "All Authority." Let me share with you what I learned.

We are children of "All Authority." "Whatever impresses us, frightens us, threatens us, embitters us, or thrills us - all that we can imagine and more - is under the reign of our Father." God has our back! Nothing we face is outside His authority. I don't know about you, but this fact helps me relax. When I receive bad news, when I anticipate an unknown outcome, I rest in the promise of His authority in my life and in the lives of those I love. There is no obstacle God cannot overcome. Of course, we will not pass through this life without trials, but knowing our Father cares and has authority gives us hope and assurance for the path.

We are partners with "All Authority." We are on the winning side. I like John 15:15, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." I am a friend of God, a servant, a workman. I am not a pawn or a piece of a jigsaw. My life has a united purpose with God. He placed me here intentionally, and He did the same with you. None of us are mistakes; we are God's creation and, thereby, partners with Him. 

That takes me to Philippians 1:6, where I am assured that He began and will continue the work in my life, and Philippians 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Both verses teach me my value to God and assure me of His activity in my life. Do they do the same thing for you?

And finally, we are a part of the mission of "All Authority." "Our God is the God of the incomprehensibly huge and also the God of the infinitesimally small. In the vastness of creation, we begin to glimpse the height, depth, and breadth of the power of God, which, incredibly, is the same power that is working within us to conform us to His image. It is also the same power that sends us out to accomplish His agenda. And what is that agenda? He makes it plain: Make disciples of all people, baptizing them and teaching them. The highest goal of the God of the infinite and the infinitesimal is to be worshiped - everywhere. And though all creation testifies to His glory, there are places in this world where He is not even known."

Sometimes, we get so focused on who we are and what He can do for us that we forget why we are here! We have a sacred charge, and God wants us to be busy fulfilling it. So what is the goal of God? "Restoring the rebellious race back into the pure image of God." 

Mr. Tiegreen finishes by saying, "Do we want meaning in our lives? Here it is. Do we want to know we are in God's plan? This is it. Do we want to know power? This is the mission that has "all authority" behind it."

Dear friend, too often, we get distracted by the challenges, hurts, and complications around us. They take center stage, and we forget God's main purpose is winning souls, sharing His love, and furthering the Gospel. As His children, we get to partner with Him in this main purpose.

So, may I ask you to add one more thing to my unspoken prayer request? Pray others will come to Christ through this situation.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Week Twenty-Six - Your Choice

Have you ever been caught between a rock and a hard place? It's a tricky spot when both sides of the situation look too hard to handle, and there seems to be no easy way out, no simple solution, no happy outcome. These difficult decisions and challenging circumstances blind us as we struggle to see the way forward.

A friend shared this little blurb with me -

Marriage is hard, Divorce is hard. 
Choose your hard.
Obesity is hard, Being fit is hard. 
Choose your hard.
Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. 
Choose your hard.
Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. 
Choose your hard.
Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. 
But we can choose our hard.

We'd have to agree, life can be hard. While we wish things were easy, they rarely are. As I thought about the idea of choosing my hard, I had to remind myself that anything of real value requires effort. A good marriage takes work. Staying fit and being disciplined in spending involves dedicated self-control. Working through misunderstandings means risk and swallowing our pride. The hardness of either side is equal. Both sides hold dangers and pitfalls, but our choices remain our own and determine the outcome and the reward. 

While I pondered on this, another challenge popped up. Instead of focusing on reaching specific goals, how would things change if you focused on how you worked toward those goals?

I got to feeling like the Lord was picking on me. I had just begun accepting hard choices as beneficial when he got more pointed. Let me see if I can explain. Around my computer screen are little notes. No, rather large notes, stating my goals and even to-do items that move me toward them. But I tend to be inconsistent. I brainstorm on paper, pin it up, feel good about the ideas, and then go play Candy Crush.

Instead of following through with the hard decisions that will move me forward, I daydream. I need to choose my hard and make a more concerted effort to do the things that will move me forward consistently. Otherwise, disappointment will haunt me, opportunities could be missed, and the blame would lay squarely on my shoulders.

That's quite a bit of honesty for me to put on paper, but I want you to know you are not the only one who struggles with self-motivation and discipline. What are we to do?

I came to this. God gives the increase, but he can't increase what I'm not putting out. So, if I move steadily forward, he multiplies my effort. My responsibility is faithfully taking the next step, making the next hard choice, doing what I know I should do, and leaving the rest to him.

And when it comes to my choices, wisdom dictates I first compare my hard to God's Word. There, I find strength, encouragement, and perseverance. My hard will not last forever. But if I make poor choices, I turn an already difficult situation into something seemingly impossible to bear. For me, I'd rather choose the hard that keeps me inside God's will and design. I feel too vulnerable stepping outside of that!

What hard choices are you facing? Are you making and acting upon wise choices that move you forward, or are you daydreaming? Take the advice of this little song and keep moving forward looking for God to increase your efforts.

One step at a time,
Only one step at a time.
That is the way the Lord will lead you,
One step at a time.

Take that one step carefully,
Walk that one step prayerfully.
That is the way to victory,
One step at a time.