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.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Week Twenty-Five - Hurdles


One of my favorite track and field events is the hurdles. I love watching the precision and the piercing concentration of the runner's faces as they strain every muscle and clear each hurdle. The crashes can be painful to watch, but I still love the energy of this event.

In the hurdles of life, however, I don't like putting out that much effort. I prefer keeping my jumps low and manageable, so I can clear them with ease and proficiency. I enjoy a day focused on controllable goals and like to end the day happy and satisfied that I ran that day's race well. Recently, those days seem far and few between because I keep getting distracted.

A hurdler cannot afford distraction. Once they are in the air, the landing and the jump ahead must be their next focus. Mid-jump is not the time to look around, check out the opponent, or get self-confident because it takes concentrated effort to complete the race without tumbling.

Distractions are villains, stealing our time, effort, and progress. I've heard of all sorts of ways to keep them from their thievery. One way is to not turn on your internet until you have everything completed that does not require the internet. Imagine that! For me, that would mean getting dressed, making the bed, getting breakfast, and maybe even doing some housework before I picked up and turned on my phone. That sounds like a real challenge!

If you work from home, that will mean not turning on your computer until you are ready to start work and turning it completely off when your workday is finished.

Why keep the internet turned off? Because of all the pop-ups and notifications that distract you from your work. You know the drill. You start working on your lesson, doing your study, trying to get a project complete, and here comes the ping of a notification. Curiosity means you click to see, and before you know it, you have clicked and clicked and clicked. You have gotten so distracted you can't find your way back to what you were doing.

I think the enemy - that villain - wants us side-tracked. He knows if we focus, we accomplish things for God's glory. That defeats his whole purpose. He is the author of confusion and comes to destroy - even our progress. He wants us to stumble at every hurdle.

Another way to circumvent distraction is to work to a plan - have a list of things to accomplish. I have those floating all around my workstation. They help me think about what I should be doing and give me a sense of accomplishment when I strike them through or tick them as completed. Some lists are short-term - to be done today. Others are medium-term - to be done within a week to a set time frame. And others, that float and float, are the long-term ones. These keep me pointed toward the future; they shape the lesser goals.

This thought challenged me - What if instead of focusing on reaching goals, we focused on how we worked toward those goals?

Well, a hurdler knows that looking down the track and seeing the hurdles isn't enough. The secret is found in how well they train, the physical approach, the mental concentration, and the practice no one sees. Winning the race doesn't happen because they have a want to win. It is accomplished by setting out to win. Winning happens behind the scenes in the everyday choices and practices that create strength and endurance in the hurdler as he works toward his goal. It is the same for us.

So, I have to ask myself, and I challenge you to ask yourself, how well are we preparing for the race? Do we have focused practice, or do we get easily distracted? Are we stretching forth to higher goals or happy jumping puddles? Are the villains of distraction haunting us, or do we have a plan for limited them? Good intentions will not be enough. It's time to knuckle down and make daily choices with our eyes and hearts fixed on the next hurdle!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Week Twenty-Four - God Can Handle Your Overwhelm


I confess. I tend to be an over-thinker. I run every possible scenario as I try to solve problems and think through decisions. It can be overwhelming. I caught myself doing this early one morning and began praying, "Lord, I don't know how things will work out." And God calmly answered me, "Gail, that's okay. That's not your job."

Not my job? He is right. It isn't my job, and besides, I would never figure everything out anyway. I am limited. He is not.

My prayer changed to, "Well, Lord, then what is my job? What am I to do?" And again, he was ready with an answer. I grabbed my pencil and began jotting down my Father's instruction.

"Love me. Love me with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love others as well. Walk worthy, acceptable, and by faith. Enjoy the life I have given you. Do your job and leave the rest to me."

I got up that morning much lighter and less overwhelmed. Let me share a few verses that support my Father's answer and see if you can apply them to your overwhelm.

Some of the verses you probably know, like the first and second commandments. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Matthew 22:37-39

Walking worthy is found in Ephesians 4:1. Living acceptably relates to Romans 12:1, "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And to walk by faith brings Hebrews 11:6 to mind, "but without faith it is impossible to please him."

When I lose focus on life's perspective and get overwhelmed, I take myself to Ecclesiastes 5:18, "It is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him." This verse, and others that say the same, remind me that God wants me to enjoy life, to appreciate all he has provided, and to relax in his provision.

And the Lord's last instruction brought to mind my son's favorite verse, Micah 6:8. This verse sounds exactly like what the Lord said to me in the midst of my overwhelm. "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."

You know, when we overthink and begin to succumb to the pressures around us, we aren't doing what the Lord requires. He requires so little compared to what we try to produce. He just wants us to love him, trust him by faith, and appreciate his provision. That's our job. We can trust him to do his. He can handle our overwhelm.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Week Twenty-Three - Detours


   Do you take a huge gasp of air when you see a detour sign? I do! I hate taking a road I don't know because I fear not getting to my destination, winding up on some narrow lane, or missing the next sign.
      Right now, we have several diversions, as they call them in Britain, because they are working on the roads. These types of detours help us avoid hazards and keep us safe. But no matter the reason, I still experience frustration, fear, and impatience when faced with the prospect of changing my intended direction.
    Sometimes our spiritual lives are thwarted with detours as well. I like to view them as providential redirection toward God's goal - His purpose for my life. And I also see them as providential protection from a Good Father who is keeping me safe. Sometimes, that helps me not get so frustrated and fearful!
    But even with this better perspective, I still get a knee-jerk reaction to a detour because I have to surrender control. Things seem out of order, and I feel forced to make the decision to walk by faith.
     Folks in the Bible experienced detours, too. Probably the most extended detour in recorded history is the Israelites' trek across the wilderness. A journey of eleven days turned into a 40-year detour and resulted in the death of a whole generation.
    Jonah created his detour and wound up in the belly of a whale. Once he got back on track, he was angry, resentful, and had a complete disregard for others.
    Michal, Saul's daughter, had a couple of detours. She did not handle it well and for all eternity is recorded as a spiteful and angry wife.
    However, others yielded to their detours. Joseph made the best of his. Nehemiah faced much opposition but completed his detour with dignity. David encountered many, but he knew the value of waiting on God's timing. Esther's challenging detour positioned her for the salvation of her nation.
        Evelyn Christenson, in her book Gaining Through Losing, lists the following gains and losses. Detours come - 

        So we might gain the purposes of God
        So we might gain the strength of God.
        So we might gain the sovereignty of God.
        So we might gain the comfort of God.
        So we might gain hope in God.
        So we might gain trust in God.

        So we might lose our rights.
        So we might lose our pride.
        So we might lose our attachment to possessions.
        So we might lose our apathy.
        So we might lose our fears.

God-directed detours always have a purpose. Chris Tiegreen wrote, "God's hand is in even the most difficult circumstances, letting affliction have its deepest results. This is His chosen path for us, not a diversion from it. He is always the Lord of our situation."
    Here's the thing about detours, they do not last forever. Oh, they might land us at a different destination, but it will be a destination of God's choosing. Through God-given detours, we see our sufferings used to magnify our Saviour, help us grow in Christ, be more sanctified, and purified, etc.
    And we can always be assured that God will bring us through the detour. He will not leave us lost beside the road. Just as He brought Joseph, Moses, and Paul through, He will bring us through!
    So, what should be our attitude when we see a detour sign? Let's remember to submit, not only to the law of the road but more importantly, to the Lordship of our Saviour. 
    And let's be thankful. That sign isn't randomly placed to annoy us, it is for our protection and has a purpose. Thankfully, in wisdom and for our benefit and protection, the Lord directs our steps. He is the Lord of detours.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Week Twenty-Two - I Need a Vacation

I'm so ready for a vacation. Not a working one, not a meeting with family one, but a staring at the sky or sitting on the beach or any place where the sun is shining and a nice breeze is blowing with no unwelcome distractions. How about you?

  I got to daydreaming about this the other day, and I wandered off into thinking of unwanted vacations, the kind we think will never end.

  Like sometimes, we land in a place where we are fearful. The world seems to be caving in all around us, relationships grow difficult, and our times are so uncertain. It leaves us lonely and afraid. It's not a great spot to find rest.

  At other times, we get stuck as anger grasps our hearts and colors our every word and motive. We feel it scorching deep inside, no matter how hard we try to suppress it. Anger evades our prayers and twists our thoughts, leaving us nervous and weary of the battle, but we just can't find our way home.

  Disillusionment is a cold and dark vacation spot. We know this world is not our home, but even passing through feels disheartening. The beauty of life has been shoved aside for so long, we can barely see the light of hope.

  And we have probably all visited discouragement. Things aren't moving ahead as we expected. It seems like one step forward and two steps back. We push and push, and it feels we are the only ones putting forth the effort to break free.  And what does God say about these unpleasant vacation spots?

  For fear, he says, "You need my perfect love. My love casts out fear. Come, rest in my arms and let me love you."

  If you are angry, you'll hear him saying, "You need to put that away, my child. Let it go. I will give your heart a song so you can sing praises to me, and we'll rejoice together."

  Disillusioned? "Look at the beauty of me," God says, "I've given you my wonderful rainbow of promise, the beauty of the sunset, the great and exceedingly precious promises of my word, and my unfailing faithfulness. You won't be disappointed."

  Discouraged? "Oh, dear child, take heart. Drink from my fountain, feed on the bread of life, strengthen your weary soul in me."

  You know, I've been to many beautiful places around this world, but the loveliest vacations I have ever experienced were the ones where I drew aside with the Lord. I didn't have to be on the beach or wearing my sunhat. I simply cuddled up in my chair and wrapped the sarong of his word around my aching and cold little heart, allowing the warmth of the spirit to permeate my bones and the sunshine of his love to brighten me through and through. He met me there!

  Do you need a vacation? Make sure you pick a Son-ny spot!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Week Twenty-One - Starving for Love

I'd like to think I could write today's blog with as much passion as in my heart, but I'm not that talented. I am, however, moved with enough desire to try to express to you how God's everlasting, unconditional, yearning love is extended to all. Grasping even a portion of the depth of his love will change your life and feed your longing soul.

I've been reading Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. I don't think I've ever read a book with so much attention and detail into the heart of Christ and the depth of the Father's love. I do not doubt God's love for me. I rested in that truth when I found salvation, for only Jesus could satisfy my soul. And over the years, I have come to understand many facets of God's love and recognized his Spirit unearthing areas in my life where only His love could touch and heal. Today, as I write, I think of those who have not yet accepted God's love, who doubt or feel unworthy, or who need to venture deeper into his love.

Dane Ortlund wrote, "The world is starving for a yearning love, a love that remembers instead of forsakes. A love that isn't tied to our loveliness. A love that gets down underneath our messiness. A love that is bigger than the enveloping darkness we might be walking through even today. A love of which even the very best human romance is the faintest of whispers."

Is that the type of love you are starving for? A love that never forsakes? A love that truly understands and moves to embrace your brokenness? Well, my friend, this is exactly the love of God, and it is expressed through his word, exhibited by the sacrifice of Christ, and sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

This deep and abiding love of God envelopes your starving heart in times of despair. It carries you to new heights and hides you within his Everlasting Arms. Your heart sings when the cloak of God's love covers your sin and comforts your needy soul. There is no reason to starve when the banquet table is laid out before you. Song of Solomon 2:4, "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love."

There's a beautiful hymn by Lucy Meyer based on Isaiah 55:1, 6 that goes,

Ho! every one that is thirsty in spirit,
Ho! every one that is weary and sad;
Come to the fountain, there's fullness in Jesus,
All that you're longing for: come and be glad!

Child of the world, are you tired of your bondage?
Weary of earth's joys, so false, so untrue?
Thirsting for God and His fullness of blessing?
List to the promise, a message for you!

Child of the kingdom, be filled with the Spirit!
Nothing but fullness thy longing can meet;
'Tis the enduement for life and for service;
Thine is the promise, so certain, so sweet.

"I will pour water on him that is thirsty,
I will pour floods upon the dry ground;
Open your hearts for the gifts I am bringing;
While you are seeking Me, I will be found."

Maybe it is time to stop starving and partake!  Dane Ortlund wrote, "Repent of your small thoughts of God's heart. Repent and let him love you."

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Week Twenty - Don't Poke the Bear

"Don't poke the bear," my mother would say when I antagonized my sister. It's an expression most often used as a warning to prevent someone from asking or doing something that might provoke a negative response or cause a fight. And we two girls fell easily into a fight.

When the Bible uses the word " provoke, " it means to stimulate or give rise to a potentially negative or positive reaction. Today, we're going to do a short study on this word, then I want to share one quote from Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund that prompted my exploration. By the way - this is a great read on the attribute of compassion.

The word provoke is used forty-one times in the Bible. Only two times is it used in a positive light - provoking others to love and good works. Thirty-one times the provoking is done by man toward God - man provoking God to anger or jealousy.

Why would I be interested in provoking God to anger?  Well, I'm not, but let me share with you what I read about God's mercy and this idea of provoking or poking the bear.

"'Slow to anger." The Hebrew phrase literally "long of nostrils." Picture an angry bull pawing the ground, breathing loudly, nostrils flared. That would be, so to speak, "short-nosed." But the Lord is long-nosed. He doesn't have his finger on the trigger. It takes much accumulated provoking to draw out his ire. Unlike us, who are often emotional dams ready to break, God can put up with a lot. This is why the Old Testament speaks of God being "provoked to anger" by his people. But not once are we told that God is "provoked to love" or "provoked to mercy." His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, ready to gush forth. We tend to think divine anger is pent up, spring-loaded; divine mercy is slow to build. It's just the opposite. Divine mercy is ready to burst forth at the slightest prick...

Yahweh needs no provoking to love, only to anger. We need no provoking to anger, only to love."

Isn't that thought-provoking? We are like the bear, ready to fight at the slightest provocation, but our Lord is defined by mercy and longsuffering. He doesn't sit around looking for things that upset him. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil." 

Unlike my sister and me, God isn't waiting for an opportunity to fight. He doesn't fall into anger at the slightest word or sideways glance. Mercy is the definition God gives of his name as he speaks to Moses in Exodus 34:6."And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin."

Dear friend, this challenged me to look at my short-nosed-ness. Do I respond quickly in anger? Or do I have patience? Am I looking for a fight, or do I have an attitude of loving thoughts and grace? 

I also had to look at my idea of God. He is mercy. He is love. He does not willingly afflict or punish. It is his desire to grant goodness and patience. Do I see him that way? How much joy there is for us as we accept and rest in this attribute. And, what an example for us to follow.

Ask yourself. Which way are you? More easily provoked to love and mercy or a bear too easily poked to anger?

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."  James 1:19, 20

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Week Nineteen - Take a Break

 

Psalm 107:23-31 is a passage that, to me, describes ministry. God's servants are out there doing the work in great waters seeing the hand of God and His mighty wonders. And yet, even the works of God bring highs and lows, leaving them tossed about and at their wit's end. But then, as they cry, "Lord, I need a break," He calms the waves. Quietness returns for a while, and they enjoy a safe haven. The passage reads - 

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deeps. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves there of. They mount up to the heaven, they do down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven."

What a precious thing to find a safe haven in times of storm. But not just any shelter will do. Acts 27:12 speaks of a haven, which was not commodious. We sometimes drift into non-commodious havens, places where we think we can get away from the storm, but where we find even more difficulty.

One such haven is self-pity. We anchor there because of hurts and pride, thinking no one will see us or know how we feel. As the tears fall and the groaning grinds on our spirits, we should recognize we have moored in a dangerous haven.

Psalm 6:6-7, "I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief."

Another non-commodious haven is resignation to our plight, giving up, or believing ministry too hard. We grow weary of the battle. Staying in this haven brings hardness of heart and a loss of joy to ourselves and those we serve. We can't stay there forever.

Jeremiah 20:9 "I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."

One most often frequented is the haven of anger. Moored alongside are resentment and poor judgment. Those who serve from anger find it colors every outcome, taints every victory, and becomes a fierce taskmaster.

James 1:20 "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

These havens provide a form of sanctuary, but they take a heavy spiritual and emotional toll.

However, making it to a safe harbor produces distantly different results. Let's turn to Psalm 91:1-16 and see God's description of a safe harbor.  In God's haven --

We dwell under His shadow.  Verse 1 - "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."

We have refuge and shelter. Verse 2 - "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust."

We have deliverance from Satan's traps and annoying calamities.  Verse 3 - "Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence."

There is safety and comfort. Verse 4 - "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shall thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler."

We have no fear. Verses 5-7 - "Thous shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday."

We have satisfaction and refuge.  Verse 8,9 - "Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation."

We have God's protection. Verses 10-13 - "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone."

We have God's favor.  Verse 14 - "Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he hath known my name."

We have God's attention. Verse 15 - "He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him."

We have God's blessing. Verse 16 - "With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation."

Now that's the sort of place where I want to take a break!

Proverbs 18:10 describes my favorite haven, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." I have sought and found refuge there through many times of storm.

If your life's sea is tossing to and fro or your ministry ship is taking on water, anchor your soul in God's haven. Take a break! You will find safe harbor and enjoy sweet fellowship with comfort, rest, and praise.

I've anchored my soul in the haven of rest,
I'll sail the wild seas no more.
The tempest may beat o'er the wild stormy deep,
In Jesus, I'm safe evermore.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Week Eighteen - Lamentations and Light


The book of Lamentations is woeful and full of Jeremiah's exhausted bereavement at God's judgment on Israel. He is so wearied with it all. But in chapter three, he reveals an antidote that can help us face similar intense trials. Let's take time to decipher it. Why not open your Bible to Lamentations 3 and follow along with me?

God's judgment on Israel brought personal affliction to Jeremiah. Men were persecuting him and laughing at him (vs. 1, 14). It left him feeling forsaken and in a dark place (vs. 2, 6). He feels trapped (vs. 5, 7, 9) and begins believing God must be against him as well. (vs. 3, 10,12). He is full of hurt and bitterness (vs. 4, 11, 13, 15, 16), feeling completely cut off, even from prayer (vs. 8, 19, 44).

Sounds depressing, doesn't it? But we've probably all been there at one time or another. Yet, amid Jeremiah's woeful lamentation, he reveals a way through and a secret about how to face enduring deep trials. Have a look with me.

In verses 18-21, he says, "And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope."

What? Thinking about his desperate circumstance brought him hope? Yes! Jeremiah doesn't deny things are bad. He is in a tough spot, but he shifts his focus. That word "recall" means "make to return to my heart." Instead of lamenting his situation, he begins thinking about the Lord and looking at his trial from a purposeful prospect that creates hope in his heart.

Look at what he recites. Remember the Lord. Trust in His goodness, His promises (vs. 22-33). And what are they? Mercy, in verse 22. Faithfulness, in verse 23. God's provision, in verse 24, and goodness, in verse 25. Jeremiah knows the consistent characteristics of God. He experienced them in the past and knew them to be still true. Long, heavy trials do not change God.

Now, he begins to speak into his situation. (Ephesians 5:19, 20 instructs us to do the same.) Be humble, he says in verse 20.  My soul---is humbled in me."  Wait on God, he tells himself in verse 26. "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." Jeremiah knows learning to wait is an appointed lesson from God.

Learning to bear heaviness is good for spiritual growth (vs. 27). "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." This too will pass (vs. 31). "For the Lord will not cast off for ever."

God will give compassion and mercy (vs. 32-33). "But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." It probably hurt God more than it hurt Jeremiah, yet God knows the importance of teaching His children to trust Him more fully and grow in faith. There is purpose in Jeremiah's trial, as with ours.

Jeremiah concludes with repentance and praise, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto the God in the heaven." (Lamentations 3:40, 41).

What did he do next? "I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon" (Lamentations 3:55). Even though he felt very low, he prayed anyway. He chose to act by faith instead of drowning in his emotions. That is a good lesson for us.

Did he find help? Yes! God spoke to his need. "Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee! Thou saidst, Fear not"(Lamentations 3:57).

You might think Jeremiah's plight changed overnight. That's what we would expect, but it didn't. His trial was not yet complete. But, by looking to the Lord, recognizing God's goodness, and confessing his dependence, he found the surest way to endure troublesome times and found Light at the end of the tunnel. 

We, too, may be lamenting our circumstances, but there is so much to learn from Jeremiah's situation. Let's begin by rehearsing God's truth to ourselves and holding onto the exceeding great and precious promises of God's word. Let's not forget the promises right here in Lamentations 3:22-23, 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 knows right where we are. He will bring us through much stronger and prepared to give Him the praise due to His name if we faithfully wait on Him - even in the dungeon. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Week Seventeen - You Cannot


No one wants to hear, "You cannot." When I hear those words, they sound like a challenge. That has gotten me into some sticky spots! But Charles Stanley used these words in a devotion from his book, God's Purpose for Your Life, saying, "Stop to consider the truth of these statements - 

You cannot make another person love you.
You cannot always have your way in every situation.
You cannot own everything you want to.
You cannot do everything perfectly every time.
You cannot persuade everybody to think the way you do."

I sat staring at this list for a while.  Then, my mind began turning the statements around.

I cannot make another person love me, but I can still be loving toward them.
I cannot always have my way in every situation, but I can yield every situation to God's will.
I cannot own everything I want, but I can be content with what I have.
I cannot do everything perfectly every time, but I can learn and grow.
I cannot persuade everybody to think the way I do, but I can maintain my integrity and respect their opinion.

It's all a matter of perspective. Then, I thought -

Would I want to be able to make people love me? NO! I want love to come freely.
Would I want to have my way in every situation? NO! I'm glad God directs my steps because I make too many mistakes. 
Would I want to be able to do everything perfectly every time? Sounds good, but no! Where would be the challenge and adventure?
Would I want everyone thinking exactly as I do? Probably not. That sounds boring. What would we talk about if there were only one opinion on every subject?

You cannot? Here's a portion of my list.

You cannot outgive God.
You cannot begin to mine the depth of Christ's love for you.
You cannot know the day or hour of His return.
You cannot take responsibility for the decisions of others.
You cannot imagine the beauty of heaven awaiting.
You cannot keep the Ten Commandments.
You cannot control the future.

And that's all okay because I have a God who cannot lie and cannot fail. I cannot, but He can. How wonderful!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Week Sixteen - When Fledglings Flop


When the mother bird pushes her fledglings out of the next, she takes a terrible risk. They might not fly! They might fall to their death. She has no assurance. She just knows it is time for them to leave.
   Human mothers take a similar risk. We might not push our children from a height to see if they hit the bottom and live, but we let them go outside the safe walls of home and into the cold, hard world while we pray we have instilled the strength and wisdom they need to navigate. Sometimes they fly, sometimes they flop. I've not found a sure-fire way to determine the outcome.
   My five fledglings have flown home. Some of them landed safely, but not without a few bumps and scrapes. Two bombed out big time. As I watched their struggle, I kept them before the Lord in prayer, spoke words of comfort, assurance, and gentle instruction. I felt my heart sinking with each story, and yet, I knew they were in the hands of a good, good Father, a parent much better than I, so I entrusted them to Him.
   Did I lose hope? Yes, sometimes, but the heavenly Parent was there by my side as well. He kept introducing me to others who gave testimony of running away from the Lord only to be called back, of making poor life decisions, and seeing God heal. Their stories restored my faith, helping me to hand my worry back to God.
   What kept me sane? Well, I made myself a few boundaries.

1.  When I worried, I moved instantly into prayer. The struggling child had come to my mind for a purpose; a spiritual prompt, if you will. I needed to be faithful and obedient in prayer, not worry.

2. I gave them to the Lord when they were small, and I considered them to be His. I believed God was at work in their lives, even if they didn't see it.

3. I resolved not to say, or do anything I would regret or that would injure their spirits or push them away. I held my tongue and extended grace.

4. I kept the home fires burning and the door open. They knew I did not approve of their decisions, but they also knew home was waiting for them. Let me add here that this is the reason we need to be so attentive in how we raise our children and the atmosphere of our homes. Children grow up to go away from home, that is the nature of things, but a struggling child finds it harder to return if their childhood memories and experiences were negative.

5. I loved them anyway. We are all sinners. My worry, anger, and frustration were just as much a sin as their life choices. I knew God would forgive me; I had to believe God would forgive them as well, so love was the choice I made.

6. When I had to speak directly about a situation, I bathed my words in prayer and controlled my emotions. At the same time, I spoke directly and scripturally, not necessarily quoting Scripture at them, but pointing them to principles from God's word and tried to plant hope in their hearts.

How did that work? Well, before I tell you the end of the story, let me say that two of my fledglings experienced some hard stuff. One was sleeping rough, one suffered abortion and divorce, both of them ran from the Lord. Life was difficult and full of disappointments. I cried with them because I knew the way of the transgressor is hard. (Proverbs 13:15) Rebellion never leads to happiness. I knew their path, and I knew they knew they were wrong. I didn't have to tell them; I needed to love them and wait for the Lord to work in their hearts.
   One of the most precious days in any parent's life is when kids return and say thank you for their upbringing. Gratefully, I can say that both of these little birds made their way back to the Lord and expressed their thankfulness for the patience and wisdom of their parents. Today, all my children are leaders with solid Christian homes.
   If your young one is struggling and you are panicking, have a gentle, open talk. Assure them of your love, and calmly point them to principles that would help them guide their lives, but ultimately, show them your confidence in the Lord's ability.
   Stop looking for a shortcut. There are no promises and no methods that will pull them back. They must make that decision. You need to give them that much respect. They will reap what they sow. That is an unchangeable face of life. Do not take their consequences upon yourself. You are only answerable to God for your life. Above all, show them your love of the Lord, make your home a safe and welcoming place with good memories, don't nag, just love.
   Then, stand faithfully looking, as did the father of the prodigal son, and be prepared for their return.

P.S. Dear friend, Your current parenting situation may be very hard. Please don't think, "Well, if I do what she has written, it will all work out." There is no such promise. But remember, when you stand before the Lord, He will not ask you about your child's decision. He will ask you about yours. Choose faith. Choose love. Let the rest be in the hands of the Greatest Parent of all and may you find peace within His arms.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Week Fifteen - The Biggest Piece of Pie

My sister and I were born fifteen months apart. Raising us proved quite a challenge for my mother as we each vied for attention and first place. I remember her saying things like,

"Always give the other person the bigger slice."
"The bigger person will sit in the back seat."
"Take your turn, don't push others aside."

All these instructions were to keep the peace between us, but they also taught us to consider others' feelings and needs ahead of our own.

You know what? When I started sitting in the back seat, I grew to appreciate it. I had more space, and Mom didn't ask me to look for the road signs. It became my little haven. And, when I let my sister go first, I saw the outcome. Maybe I didn't want to jump out of the barn loft once I saw how she landed! And, I learned that parents reward good behavior.

Anyway, I hope, young parent, that you are teaching similar things to your children. To be sure, society is not. When you read the slogans, the idea of grabbing all you can, not letting anyone hold you back, and loving yourself first drive home a different message.

As I thought more about this, the teaching of James surfaced. You know the passage? A person looks into the glass and sees himself, then heads out, forgetting what he looks like. Well, I thought, sometimes folks get so enamored by the image in the mirror that they forget to look at anything else. They are so self-focused, so in love with themselves, they do not see or consider others. (James 1:22-24)

This is the idea behind the warning, "Perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves" in 2 Timothy 3:1,2. And what comes from this self-caressing attitude?  Covetousness, boasting, pride, disobedience, ingratitude, unholiness, sexual perversion, lying, violence, and hate, just to name a few of the things listed in 2 Timothy 3. 

So, what are we to do? Well, we could stop looking so long into the mirror. Put our self-image down, and change our view. When Jesus noticed this same attitude in the disciples, he told them to lift up their eyes and look on the fields - the needy souls coming toward them. Instead of focusing on your needs, look for, and do a good deed for someone else. You'll be much happier. Such actions create a stronger society and serve our Saviour's example.

John wrote, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) He's saying, "Let Jesus have first place." That is the greatest commandment--to love God first. The second great commandment is to love others as we love ourselves, and the Golden Rule instructs us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That is the message of Christ, a message to those in love with themselves, "Love others first." God knows we love ourselves, but he wants to see us loving others in the same way he loves them. 

The epistle of Philippians puts it this way, "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Such is the mind of Christ. Is it ours?

If we continue striving to get the biggest piece of pie, sit in the front seat, or trample over others to get what we want, we are not exhibiting Christ. We are vying for ourselves. Saints who stare at the mirror fail to see the peril of the lost, the need of others, and the eyes of the  Saviour. We are to be reflecting Christ. To do that, we must put down the mirror of self-love.

I challenge you to examine your motives, beliefs, and actions. Are you in love with yourself? Are you too proud, stubborn, or grasping to yield to others? Who do you think about first? Who gets the biggest piece of pie?

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Week Thirteen/Fourteen - Georgia Time

Last week this would not post. Today, it will!


I am writing to you from my son’s home in Georgia. Our time in Missouri has passed, and we are looking to fly back to England on Friday. We must first pass the Covid test and get all the other regulations in order. Lord willing, we will land in London on Saturday morning, just before Easter, ready for the next chapter of missionary life.

As I rest, pray, and study this morning, I am reminded how futile it is to race through life as if I were in control. The lyrics from an old song play in my head, “One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that all I’m asking of you. Give me the strength to take every day, one day at a time.”

Over the years, the Lord repeatedly reminds me of this truth. We are to measure our days, to count them, and to use them wisely. How wasteful when we fret over tomorrow or mourn over the past while we fail to enjoy today.

The Lord also reminds me that my future is completely in His skillful hands. I can only do what I can do today. He decides the outcome. He gives the increase. So how I choose to live today, how I choose to spend my time, expend my energy, or set my thoughts upon greatly affect how He can bless. If I keep taking one step forward by faith, He will direct those steps, He will continue to light the way.

On our way from Missouri to Georgia, we stopped at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. It was there as I read about Laura's life that the Lord started these thoughts. Mrs. Wilder did not begin writing until she was 65 years old. Even then, her daughter, Rose, was the encourager and the editor. Laura never dreamed she would be an author, but God directed her steps and brought her exactly to the place where her life’s true purpose came to fruition. Imagine--she was retirement age before this part of God’s plan for her life began.

Friend, we have all sorts of ideas about what our life should be, what we are becoming, and where we will end up, but God might have a vastly different path. I think that is why it is wise to take that one day at a time, to fill it with beauty, and have faith that our journey is not complete until the Lord says so.

This time of pandemic just might be the time when God turns your path. It might be the time when you see things differently or new avenues open. When the Lord is directing your path, it is always an adventure. God works in amazing ways His wonders to perform. Following Him means keeping up!

For me, and it might sound a bit like a commercial – please forgive me, but God has been opening doors, and I am challenged to keep up. 2020 saw the publication of the fourth book in my Reba and Katherine series of children’s books and sixty devotional videos onYouTube, which led to four devotion books published.  It was a full year. You can check them all out on my website http://www.gailgritts.com.

2021 started with these three precious months home with friends and family. Friday, we return to the ministry in England, and I am excited to see what God has in store. But today, there are two little Georgia grandboys wanting to play games and a few more days with family, time to love, cherish and create happy memories.

Join me today. Let’s be doing what should be done and leave tomorrow to His will and care.

 

P.S.  We did arrive home safely in England on Saturday and are doing our ten days of isolation. Thank you for all the prayers and messages of support. Please subscribe to the blog and feel free to share! Leave me a message if you want. I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Week Twelve - Are you Convinced?

A Christian is a person convinced of four basic things...

They are convinced of their need for a Saviour.

The sermon opened with the reading of John 16:8, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” The preacher put it this way, "Unless you have been convinced of your sinful state, your feeble attempts at self-righteousness, and your inadequate reasoning, you are not convinced that Christ is all in all."

I thought back to the time I came to Christ, and I had to agree.  I had gone to church for years, served, prayed, and done all the things I was taught, but I still had doubts in my heart and lacked assurance.  I believed my sin wasn’t any worse than anyone else; I was doing all I could be look like a Christian and full of excuses and self-reasoning that kept me from seeing my personal need. 

Then, when the eyes of my heart looked into the loving eyes of my Saviour, my sinfulness was exposed, my works of righteousness faded away, and my will could no longer resist. In humble confession, I repented and gave my life to Christ. I was convinced. I became a Christian. How about you?

They are convinced of the Authority of the Book.

And a beautiful book it is! The Bible is the Christian’s guide, console, teacher, and corrector. Through the Spirit's working, it touches the deepest part of the heart, mind, and soul. It not only contains the word of God but is the Word of God alive in our heart.

It keeps the Christian from sin. “Thy word have I hidden in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11

It holds infinite wisdom. “For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

It has the final authority. “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” Proverbs 21:30

It will be completed. “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18

And it will endure forever. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”  Isaiah 40:8

Those convinced about the authority and beauty of the Book have confidence and perspective that strengthens and directs their life. How important is the Bible to your life?

They are convinced of Commandments.

Commandments might sound like a harsh word, but for the Christian, they hold no anguish. Commandments boil down to “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and thy mind…and love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matthew 22:37,39

Commandments are love in action. The Christian is convinced that obedience is key to growth and happiness. God isn’t a harsh taskmaster. His commandments are not grievous; we are told in 1 John 5:3. But they are there for our benefit, our help, and our relationship. They give us structure, guidance, and a way to lay up treasure in heaven.

When we are convinced God’s way is best, we find happiness and purpose the world cannot give. How are you doing with obedience?

They are convinced on Commission.

A Christian is also convinced that this gift of salvation, this precious Book, and the directives therein are not to be hoarded.  They are to be shared, lived out so others can see The Light, and blazed abroad. Jesus himself said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.” Mark 16:15 

Friend, I am convinced.  Are you?