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?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Week Eleven - To Cut a Long Story Short

With the passing of my mother-in-law back on the first part of January, we wound up stateside. We booked our return tickets to England for mid-March, hoping coronavirus restrictions would have calmed down by then, but no such luck. To cut a long story short, just let me say, we have purchased three sets of tickets and are now waiting to see if the final set gets us home the first weekend in April. There are still Covid hurdles to clear, so we try to stay healthy and keep up with all the changes.

Sometimes one wonders why things happen, but I have learned, as my husband says, to just enjoy the ride. Oh, it can get frustrating, fearful, and expensive, but our God is still in control. Even in the craziness, He has a way of revealing His beauty and teaches us to trust Him more. 

We have been staying in a tiny house across the lawn from my middle son and his family. Having our own little place means we rest better, can sit quietly, and enjoy the Lord’s provision. And there are five grandkids bringing life and excitement only a stone’s throw away. Also, our daughter and her family are only a short drive, so we have enjoyed time with them as well. 

And then, our home church and extended family are nearby, our family friends and memories are all hinged on this part of the country. That means we relax in familiar surroundings. No noisy streets, no pressing ministries, no expectations, just life.

As I was praying the other night, I rejoiced to see the Lord’s loving hand in our situation. Oh, there is still Covid, there is still the nervousness about the uncertainty of our flight in April and the sadness of saying goodbye again, but all those things pale when I see the goodness and provision of God.

I know we are all longing for the day when Covid becomes a thing of the past and life gets back to some sort of normal, but let’s not wish away the beauty of what is around us now. Some blessings and opportunities have only come because of the lockdowns and restrictions. 

Opportunities like more time with your children, playing games as a family, spending less on gas for the car, eating homemade food, and having time to re-evaluate life. Remember when we used to wish for time to stop? Have you used your restriction time wisely?  

And blessings, like the reminder this pandemic has given us about our vulnerabilities, our need for friends, the testimonies of God’s grace and goodness. Have you counted yours?

Here’s the thing – dwelling on negatives does not produce a positive mindset.Looking for the good in hard situations, praising and thanking the Lord for His activity and seeking to share encouragement with others create a brighter prospect. 

So, as I take my PCR Covid test in a couple of weeks and get everything ready for that April 2nd flight; I hope you will pray that I remember the lessons the Lord has been teaching me and that His hand will take us safely and assuredly back to our ministry in England.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Week Ten - Powerful Restraint

As I began reading a book entitled Jesus and Ourselves by Leslie D. Weatherhead, I was captured reflecting on the depth of the power of Christ. All power is given unto Him, and the author explored four ways Jesus restrains His power to respect our personage. These four are well within Jesus’ right and power. He could use them to cause us to respond to Him, but because He has all power, He uses restraint.

Physical Power – the author states, “Yet, the striking thing is that, out of respect for men’s personality, Jesus will not try to win even a righteous cause by force.” (p 28) Even though Jesus was innocent, He did not use His immense power to win the day. He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him from the cross, but He chose to submit His power and His will to the will of His Father. In the time of His temptation, one word from Him would have totally annihilated Satan, but He refused to let His physical power override His personal, spiritual restraint in the face of temptation.

What a beautiful example of submission and meekness, which is strength under control. Such is our Saviour, meek and lowly of heart, but not without immense power – power under control, restrained to make way for us.

Psychic Force – Jesus calls us to follow, then, “Lest the tremendous impact of His personality should throw us off balance. He wants our decision to be our own. There happens with Jesus what always happens where you have a powerful personality. There were few neutrals. Men were for or against. And they were swayed, not by examining the issue in all its bearings and making a personal choice which recognized all the implications but were swept into one or other camp by those almost electrical currents of psychic energy which streamed from Him. Crowds surged around Him and would have died for Him.  Others withdrew to weave their corporate suspicion, hate, and fear into a net strong enough to drag Him to death. Jesus knew this would happen. As He said, He came not to bring the peace of smug, self-satisfied complacency, but the sword of division that severs sometimes the closest-knit intimacies of life.” (p 30-31)

I don’t know about you, but I love Him more because He does not force me to love Him. He calls me to follow, and I make that choice. We love him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). There is no coercion, no forcing of the will, no demand. Only a loving invitation.

Mental Superiority - “Jesus never crushed men’s minds by the sheer weight of argument, which they had no trained faculty to disentangle or co-ordinate with the rest of their mental background. He led them gently step by step so that the mind could always look back and see the steps it had taken. It is the difference between being whirled into a new experience by an escalator and walking quietly upstairs.  Jesus could not override perplexity or accept a loyal heart at the expense of a disabled mind.” (p 31) 

I’m reminded of the many verses telling us all knowledge and all wisdom is in Him. We think we are so smart, so advanced, so tech-savvy, but our minuscule brains are nothing compared to our Creator. Yet, He never uses His mental superiority to crush us or leave us confused.  He shines the light of understanding into our hearts and brings us to understanding according to our capabilities.

Emotional Appeal – “Jesus never pressed for decision while emotion was at its height, nor coerced a submission by an appeal to admiration, or pity, or fear.” (p 33)

As you read Jesus encounters with the emotional moments of his life and ministry, the woman caught in adultery, Mary washing His feet with her hair, or even when His parents came frantically looking for Him, in every instance, Jesus acknowledged the emotion, but left the scene calmed and with a direct result that never forced the person to a greater emotional reaction. He always led them to a peaceful decision that recognized their humanity.

Jesus could have used any or all of these four powers in dealing with man, but, “If He lifted so much as a little finger, our paltry defenses would go down in ruins, but because of this tremendous respect for our personality, which reveals the eternal restraint of God, this great Lover of the soul will never be its burglar, but will wait on the threshold until we ourselves rise and let Him in. ‘Behold,’ He says, ‘I stand at the door and knock.’ What a respect for personality! What a divine restraint! What a majestic love! I listen down the corridor of the years for any sound of the dread trumpet of an angel summoning men to repentance. I only hear the voice of a Baby crying in a manger, and a whisper from lips tortured by pain, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (p 35)

AMEN. How beautiful. If we lift Him up, He will draw men to see His love, sacrifice, and beauty. How can the eye turn away? How can the heart not be moved? How can the intellect fail to comprehend? All power is given unto Him, and He directs that power in love toward us.

Dear reader, if you do not know Christ, I urge you to consider Him once again. He is the Saviour, the all-powerful God, and His provision for your restoration cost Him everything. He willingly laid aside His powerful rights to pay the price of your sin and offers forgiveness. Your part is to humbly admit your need and recognize His sacrifice.

Christian, stand in awe at the meekness, wisdom, patience, and powerful restraint that affords your salvation and works through to your sanctification.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Week Nine - Are You Being Tempered or in a Temper?

I don’t remember where I heard this little question, but it has stuck with me for several weeks. Ask yourself, as I asked myself, “Am I being tempered or in a temper?”

That question holds much for us to discover. You see, being tempered requires pressure, fire, and pushing to the limits. Being tempered makes us stronger, more resilient, and able to withstand greater pressures. We need to be tempered. Without this type of challenge and growth, we have the feeble knees and dangling hands mentioned in Hebrews 12. We remain lame and in need of healing.

Have you ever studied the twelfth chapter of Hebrews? It is packed with instruction, but not the type of instruction we like to hear. The first few verses are great and encouraging, but then the passage moves into a discussion about the need for God’s children to receive and endure correction.

Verse eleven comes to a conclusion saying, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” 

That is a good definition for tempering. It isn’t a comfortable exercise, but the results are beneficial. Few of us look forward to hard times that push us to greater character, strength, or faith, but this is the way of God. Our Father wants strong children. Tempering gives us that strength.

But tempers? They are different. We’ve all seen the toddler throwing a temper tantrum on the floor of the grocery store because the parent refused to buy more candy. We’ve seen the teenager storming out of a room and heard the slamming of doors and the shouts of anger. And, be honest, we also know when we could barely hold our tongue for the rage and rebellion that wanted to spew from our hearts when we were refused our way.

A temper tantrum is defiance, rebellion, and stubbornness. But back to the question, “Are you being tempered or in a temper?” 

Let’s think about it this way. As we face the restrictions, confusion, and illogical patterns of life in this pandemic, what is our response?  Are we allowing these things to refine us, to temper us, to give us strength? Or are we throwing tantrums? Are we speaking words of hate and anger? Are we doing things to be annoying and purposeful difficult with vengeful feelings? I hope not!

There is fruit to both tempering and tantrums.  In Hebrews 12, we read that the fruit of tempering is peace and righteousness.  If you read on in the chapter, you see that temper tantrums lead to rejection and regret. So, ask yourself again, “Are you being tempered or in a temper?”

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Week Eight - How Long You Gonna Stay There?

My heart's burden this week has been for the many who seem overwhelmed with our current global situation. Gloominess, depression, and fear grip their hearts, and the road back to normal looks way too long.

A cartoon reminded me that normal is only a setting on a washing machine. So, since we each have a different definition of normal, it becomes a place with too many variants to apply a liberal definition. I think we are trying to say that we wish our individual life would be as it was before this pandemic altered everything. We are longing for the good old days.

But I want to challenge you to think today about where you were, how you felt, and the things you personally dealt with before Covid 19. If we are honest, most of us would say we still dealt with feelings of gloominess, bouts of depression, and a certain amount of fear of the future. That was our normal.  If we aren’t careful, we will be in the same boat when all this is through. We will be stuck in our bad attitudes, feelings of failure, and fears that keep us from moving forward. We will not have benefited or learned anything from this trial.

So, let’s ask ourselves a few questions. Were we struggling with the same personal issues before Covid as we are now? Has Covid heightened our inadequacies, fears, and trepidation? How long have we struggled? How long do we intend to stay there?

When I look at the life of Elijah, I see a similar pattern. He had fears, bouts of gloominess, and depression, and when the heat of the battle pressed the issue home, he took refuge in a cave, vowing to never again see the light of day. He settled into his despondency.

Yet, outside the cave came the noise of a great wind, the crashing of rocks, and an earthquake. Fire lit up the entrance, and a still small voice called him out. God got his attention. 

The sad thing is, Elijah held onto his complaint. And God? God asked Elijah twice, “What doest thou here, Elijah? “  In other words, “How long you gonna stay there?”

You see, God knows running from our problems, allowing the loss of hope and courage to drive us inward, and hiding from God’s face are not healthy ways to manage mental health – and especially spiritual health.

There comes a time when we must face our fears and solve our problems. And when we do, when God calls us to trust Him, we move forward.  That is when we leave the cave of despondency and move back into useful service – to our normal.

I don’t know about you, but I want to come out of this cave of the pandemic more energized, more prepared, more hopeful, and ready to serve. I want my new normal to be better than the one I left behind.

To do that, I must set my eyes forward. I must deal with the issues that confound me, giving them to the Lord and asking Him to teach me the truth. I must set my hope on things eternal and remember that God is at work, even when I feel like I am in a cave. He is doing miraculous things, making noise, and calling to get my attention.

I’m heading out to see what’s going on. How about you? How long you gonna stay there?


If you are struggling, let me encourage you to check out my YouTube channel -Gail Gritts. There you will find devotional videos about facing anxiety, controlling your thought life, and facing hard times. Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive weekly encouragement. Or, check out my website where you can purchase devotional books-gailgritts .com. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s walk that way together.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Week Seven - A Blanket of Prayer

We have spent this past week feeding the wood stove and trying to stay warm in the perishing temperatures of this 2021 snowstorm. It has really been quite fun. My husband sits in a cozy chair with his legs covered by his grandmother’s handmade quilt, and we sleep each night in my great-grandmother’s iron bed with my mother’s handmade quilt for extra warmth. All around me are reminders of the women in my life who left their legacy and covered our ministry with a blanket of prayer.

Last month, with my sweet mother-in-law's passing, we were reminded of her blanket of prayer. I know this to be true. This woman prayed.  She prayed for her family,  friends, church, pastor, and her prayers left an imprint on many lives.

One of the amazing things I have learned about prayer is that it does not stop with the passing of the person praying.  My mother-in-law’s prayers will continue to have an effect.  How do I know that? 

Look at Revelation 5:8. “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.” 

And Revelation 8:4 reads, “And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” God stores up our prayers to be used for His glory in the future.

Another way I know prayer has a lingering effect is by the testimony of others. I’m sure you have heard testimonies of a mother praying for a wayward son or daughter, who, long after the passing of the mother, comes to the Lord. And how many times have we prayed for something, forgotten completely about it, and then noticed when the Lord answered? God takes note of our prayers and answers in His time.

I got to thinking more about this blanket of prayer, and it challenged me to think about my own prayers. Am I faithful to pray for my family?  What about my pastor and church family? Do I keep them in prayer? Do I understand the power and importance of my prayer life? Do I bathe my day in prayer? Do I pray before I make decisions or react to current circumstances? Is prayer my source of fellowship and rejoicing?

2021 is going to be a long year – maybe even longer than 2020. Today is a good time to begin covering it with a blanket of prayer-prayer for strength, wisdom, protection, and, above all, God’s hand.

So, while you are locked down, stuck inside the house, and complaining about cabin fever, take time to create a legacy of prayer – a blanket that will be used by God as a sweet-smelling savour with eternal value.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Week Six - Have You Forgotten?


One of the privileges of our current society is the opportunity to listen to and interact with people around the world through social media. Love it or hate it, it is an amazing avenue. 

This past Sunday, I enjoyed listening to the sermon from our first mission church. As the minister preached on the church’s responsibility to missions and evangelism, he put forward one challenging question that stuck in my mind. Trying to motivate the congregation to take up their individual responsibility in evangelism, he asked them, “Have you forgotten what it was like to live without Christ?

What a great question. Have we forgotten? Have we forgotten the fear and blindness of life without Christ? Have we forgotten the hopelessness and confusion? Have we forgotten what it is like to live without peace, trying to make our own peace, or that nagging feeling of inner desperation and turmoil? Have we forgotten what it is like to try to hold things together yet be always looking back over our shoulder because we felt something just isn’t right, something is missing?

This challenged my heart. How often do we rest in the love and assurance of Christ and forget the lost? How often do we enjoy fellowship with like-minded believers and forget the loneliness of the world around us? How often do we look to the Word for assurance and strength and forget there is no rest, no peace, no assurance with the ungodly? 

I remember arriving on the mission field and being totally overwhelmed with the fact that in a teeming crowd of shoppers on a Saturday afternoon, I could potentially be the only believer walking the streets. How would I ever begin to tell this many people about Jesus? I could hardly bear the pressure of my burden for the lost around me. And even now, I must keep my thoughts under control because my heart wants to burst forth with the gospel.

But the minister gave a simple illustration that afforded me an encouraging avenue for evangelism. He spoke of blowing the gentle seeds of the dandelion – letting them take air. Our testimony is the same. We need to let it take air – to gently blow the truth of the gospel as we live our lives. Then, let the wind of the Spirit take it to fertile ground. It reminded me of Ecclesiastes 11:1, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” We are to be casting, blowing, giving out, letting the Word of Christ flow into receptive hearts.

May we never forget that someone did the same for us. Someone took time to speak, give, show, or tell, and the Spirit lodged the Word into our hearts. Let us not forget that others need the same opportunity. Whether it be through social media or the personal spoken word, may we not be neglectful.  May we not forget – people still need Christ.

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Week Five - When Life Gets Wonky


I sit writing today from a tiny house on my family farm in Missouri. With the passing of my mother-in-law, life placed us back with our family for an extended period. The disruption of normality, and the uncertainty created by traveling during COVID-19, leaves me trying to create a temporary normal and wondering how things will work out. Life just got wonky, as if the current pandemic hadn’t already done the trick!

But you know what? That’s okay. Life happens. I got to thinking about several Bible characters whose lives went wonky. Joseph, for example. He was the favorite son to a rich and loving father, but he found himself hated by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold to some hairy Ishmaelites, and a slave in Pharaoh’s house. The wonkiness did not stop there. Prison became his fate, then an extended drought, and he never returned alive to the place he started.

Daniel started out in a rich, educated Jewish home, but found himself in a foreign training camp separated from his family. He, too, never returned. Life brought him under service to King Nebuchadnezzar and into a lion’s den- that’s definitely a wonky place.

Esther. After the death of her parents, she was cared for by a loving and wise uncle, but then, life took a wonky twist and she found herself in the palace, threatened by evil Haman, and her life, too, never returned to the peaceful normal where she started.

We could think of Nehemiah, who really wasn’t an architect or builder, but faced the prospect of organizing a bunch of untrained people to build as he endured the laughter and taunting of bullies and the underhandedness of the political swamp.

Mary and Joseph saw their ideal love story interrupted for all eternity by one visit from the angel and the Apostle Paul’s career was forever altered by one blinding light.

Wonkiness seems to be just a part of life. As my brother reminded me, “There is only one constant in life – change.”

So, what are we to do when life takes a deviation? Some of us throw up our hands and fall down in despair. Others get angry and try to drive life back into the desired path. But I like the attitude of the Apostle Paul when he said, in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy.”

As I talked about this idea of wonkiness with my husband, he shared that he, too, had been thinking about a similar idea. He had drawn the prospect that nearly all these Bible characters I mentioned were young people – teenagers. When life put challenges before them, they were held up by the truth they had learned from parents and the character that had already been placed within them. The depth of their character was revealed in their response to difficulty. That begs the question, “Are we preparing our children for the future? Putting strength and character in their lives that will help them endure trials and make strong, godly decisions? Let’s hope so.

As I looked at wonkiness, I saw that in each case, they narrowed their vision. They looked straight forward. Scriptures like Proverbs 4:25-27, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil,” came to my mind.

And Isaiah 30:21, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.”

Or Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

I’m sure you can think of other Scriptures that instruct us to keep our eyes on the Lord, to follow the light of His path, and not allow the whirling of the world to distract. Scripture gives us guidance and encouragement when life goes wonky.

Life happens. Things change. And when life starts pulling us to and frow, when the stormy winds rock our boat – we need to narrow our vision. Like the Israelites of old, when life gets wonky and we feel pinned in, God will take us through the water on dry ground, if we keep our eyes consistently looking straight forward to Him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Week Four - The Appropriate Response

 

Have you ever over-reacted to a situation? You know, when you got angry too quickly or spoke too harshly, or let fear and frustration take over. 

I heard the funniest story this past weekend about a family member who totally freaked out when stopped by the cops. Instead of remaining calm, she tore into a rant, threatened them with bodily harm, and turned into a screaming banshee. We all laughed as she admitted her behavior was so awful and embarrassing, she was sure the video of her response would wind up in a police training seminar.

Then, there are times when overwhelming feelings of sadness and despair color our every response. We see no light, no hope, no faith, just doom and gloom. I must admit watching the news evokes these responses from my soul. I have chosen to limit watching the news and turned myself to prayer instead.

I used to tell my teenagers, “Your reaction is your choice.” I was trying to remind them of their responsibility for their actions and help them learn to calculate the outcome. Today, I find myself repeating those same words to my heart. What is the appropriate response to the upheaval, the anger, the hate, and the fear in our world today? My reaction is my choice.

Chris Tiegreen put it succinctly, “Faith is the appropriate response. As critical as things appear, God is still on the throne, Jesus is still Lord over all, and your situation is much larger to you than it is to Him.”

I had to agree. Our situation seems so large, but it is minuscule when compared to the whole of creation, the vastness of space, and the utter endlessness of God Himself.

Billy Graham said, “Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.” I find that so true. When I notice anxious thoughts and emotions, I can most usually trace them back to a lack of faith in God, a fear, or a belief in hopelessness. Thankfully, God’s Spirit is always there to help me come back to reason, to rest in faith, and to carry on.

If our reaction is our choice, what choice are we making? What is the appropriate response today? Let me share with you a few scriptures from the Psalms that aid our responses.

Psalm 57:7 “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.”

Psalm 56:3 “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Psalm 60:11, 12 “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.”

Psalm 61:2, 3 “When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.”

Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”

Psalm 27:13, 14 “I had fainted, unless 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.”

You see, our response is calculated by God’s word, measured by our faith, and rewarded according to our obedience. Faith is the appropriate response.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Week Three - Let it Shine

Today, America inaugurates their 46th president. With thousands of troops surrounding the Capital, it makes me wonder.  Do they always call out this level of security?  Is the new president so fearful for his life that he needs such a show of force?  Is the old president thinking of calling marshall law?  The press would have you believe any of these are possible.  

As I prayed for our country, God kept whispering in my heart, “Love not the world.” It was a good reminder for me to stay focused, to keep trusting, and to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in every purpose and act of man. Then, I turned to my 2021 devotion book. If you have never tried this one, I recommend it – At His Feet, by Chris Tiegreen.  It is published through Walk Thru the Bible/Tyndale.

Anyway, after thoughts on light and truth, he wrote, “Do not dabble in the wisdom of the world. Its interpretations of life are but shadows; its knowledge is untouched by the light of truth.” I had to agree. This world does not seek light, it does not exude light, it does not know The Light. But we do.

All through the centuries, the world has tried to make its own way, but it is still groping in darkness.  Tiegreen writes, “We live in a dark kingdom (Colossians 1:13). Our understanding was darkened (Ephesians 4:18); we are surrounded by powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12); we ourselves have done deeds of darkness (Romans 13:12); our motives are dark (1 Corinthians 4:5); and even when we see God, we see Him very dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that we were darkness (Ephesians 5:8).

As I thought about the bleakness of this image, the penny dropped and my heart began to rejoice. We were darkness, but Ephesian 5:8 continues by saying, “now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”

C.S. Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything.” Praise the Lord for the glorious light of the Gospel that has shined into our heart, for the Word that is a light and lamp to our path, for the glory of God that dispels darkness and illuminates truth helping us to see with the brightness of spiritual eyes.

Then, the Spirit brought Philippians 2:15, 16 to my memory. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life.”

Oh, how this dark world needs to see the beauty and the brightness of the Gospel exhibited by the godly behavior and unwavering faith of the children of God.

My heart began singing, "This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine!"  How? By keeping my eyes on the light of His love, by seeking guidance from His Word, and recognizing the brightness of His presence because in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Week One - Locusts


Joel 2:25 reads, God will "restore to you the years the locust hath eaten." That truth has kept my heart and mind occupied these past few weeks.

Then, as I began collecting my end-of-year tax information, it became obvious that we had not driven as far as last year or spent nearly as much. Sitting at home in lockdown had a generous effect on our finances. But it couldn't make up for the fact that we felt more had been taken away than gained. 

What has been eaten up by 2020? Time with friends, hugs, handshakes, fellowship, the economy, jobs, health, trust, etc, you could probably name more. The locust of this pandemic has definitely ravaged the life we knew and left its mark. And we aren't finished. 2021 will also be scarred by the blight. And then there will be the added years of financial recovery. But I don't want to be that bleak. I want to plant the same hope in your heart as God's word planted in mine as I studied this verse out a bit.

You see, God calls the locusts, "my great army which I sent among you." God sent the locust. Just as the plagues of Egypt, God uses nature to reveal His power and correct His children. And not only locust, but verse 25 also mentions several other annoying and destructive critters. All nature is under His control.

Here's what I thought. God brought the locust. He allowed the devastation, but He also knows how to set things right again, to restore what was lost. Verse 26 says, "And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be ashamed."

God will restore. I hold great hope in that promise. Right now, it all looks so miserable and disheartening. It's hard to see the end of the tunnel and it makes you dread even looking, but there is light and hope because God is already in tomorrow. He knows what the locusts destroy, and He will put us back into the place of plenty, satisfaction, and praise. We aren't there now, but we will be.

My heart starts to rise with praise and hope when I think about that promise. God is able to restore. Where our hearts are broken, He mends and binds up our wounds. Where we stand confused and bewildered, He gives direction. Where we feel hopeless, He lifts us up. He is the Excellent Restorer who wonderfully strengthens the heart of His children.

Dear friend, 2021 is not where you place your hope - God is. A New Year changes nothing, but trust in God changes everything. You might feel all is hopeless or you have suffered too much loss, but God says He will restore what the locusts have eaten. Let's give Him some time and see what He does!