Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Week Forty-Three - Captivated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Week Forty-Two - Open Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Week Forty-One - Draw the Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Week Forty - Verbal Diarrhea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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