Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Week Twenty-Five - Bubble, Bubble

A while back, I saw a picture of a huge Christian conference. People had flocked to hear this speaker. I'm not against conferences, but the same day, I read this, "There should never be any dry spells in the Christian life. God said He would be like an artesian well, bubbling forth with a cold, fresh, never-ending supply of water, quenching any thirst, and always satisfying. You don't need to run all over the country trying to find sources of spiritual refreshment. Artesian wells do not run dry. Broken cisterns do." (Blackaby)

It got me thinking about how we feed and water our spiritual lives. Do we look to others to do that? Do we listen to all sorts of podcasts, videos, and stuff, looking for them to quench our thirst? The promise of Christ in John 4:14 is, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

I was forced to examine myself. Do I have that artesian well of life springing up in me? Do I know the freshness of fellowship with my Saviour? Or have I left my well unattended? Is it clogged? What does it reveal about me if I search for refreshment from outside sources instead of looking to the well of water Christ gave me at salvation?

Here's what I came up with. My best resource for encouragement is Christ. Only He can speak directly to my heart. Only He knows everything about me and still works in love toward my soul. My best resource for times of discouragement is Christ. He is the lover of my soul, the lifter up of my head, and the restorer of my hope. My best resource for direction is Christ. His Word promises direction if I will but seek it.

And the Word of God? That is the eternal source of water, the place where the well springs up as the Word comes alive to my heart. Also, the Spirit of God prays alongside me and teaches me more about Christ.

So, while I can benefit from listening to others, God never says they should be my resource. My comfort, encouragement, and spiritual stamina come directly from Him.

It reminded me of something else I once read, "Man's encouragement is gone in a moment. God's remains." I want encouragement that remains. I want that fountain of life that quenches my thirst and satisfies my longings bubbling in my soul and springing up each day.

How about you? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Week Twenty-Four - Short-changed

Are you satisfied with your Christian life? Or are you short-changing yourself by merely reading about God, and missing out on knowing His ways? There is a difference! You can see it when you compare Moses and the children of Israel.

Psalm 103:7 reads, "He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel."

The Israelites saw and witnessed God's miracles - His acts. They walked across the dry Red Sea just as Moses did. They ate the manna and quail from heaven even as Moses. But they were content to receive God's provision without ever knowing God Himself. They short-changed themselves. 

Are we, like the Israelites, content to experience God's activity without ever coming to know Him personally? Are we recipients of answered prayer, yet we have not come to know the Provider? Are we blessed by God's providential care over our families, homes, and jobs, yet satisfied not personally knowing the One from whom the blessings come? Do we benefit from God's protection, yet not acquainted with the Protector?

Such an attitude seems so selfish and dishonoring. It is presumptuous and disregarding. How would we feel if our children treated us the way we treat God? How much are we missing out on if we remain as bystanders snatching crumbs from the table when the Master wants a closer relationship?

Moses saw beyond the provision of God to the person of God. He knew God's ways. He wasn't content with only God's power. If he had been, he could have accepted the presence of an angel and been victorious in his efforts. But Moses wanted to experience more. He wanted to know God Himself, not just see God's activity.

How about you? Are you plodding along oblivious to the fact that the Master of all creation wants to be your friend? Have you come to know God more personally as a result of your experiences with Him? Don't short-change yourself - get to know Him better!

Start with a consistent reading of your Bible, prayer, and humility. These three open your heart’s door. Then, obey what you read, get into church and see what God does from there. 

Adapted from Experienced God Day by Day by Henry Blackaby

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Week Twenty-Three - I'm not Job!

I'm not Job; perfect and upright. I have flaws. I don't have ten children; I have five. I don't have livestock; I don't even have a pet. I don't live near my children. They are thousands of miles away. But each day, I ask God for His hand of love and protection around them. You might catch me wailing, complaining, and experiencing fear and worry when a crisis or trouble comes, but my reaction, like Job's, is my choice. What did Job believe that gave him such faith and spiritual stamina in dire circumstances? Is his secret available to me?

As I continued to read Job's story, I think I found it. The first hint is in Job 1:21, where he says, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Do you see it? Everything belongs to the Lord. Everything! Job knew God's hand brought him wealth, family, and prestige. He humbled himself and blessed the Lord because he knew the cattle on a thousand hills and all of his temporal possessions belonged to the Lord. 

That might sound rather cold, but sometimes the truth is like that. I read on and found a few more sparks of truth that helped me see beauty in the middle of Job's despair.

Not only did Job believe everything belonged to the Lord; he also knew everything came from the Lord. The Lord gives from His abundant supply, and it is His prerogative to administer every facet of His creation. Job knew this truth and settled his heart to accept God's sovereignty in all matters.

In Job 12:9-10, he says, "Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." Sounds like Job already knew the truth of Ephesians 1:11, God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

In chapter two, Job's wife and Satan describe him as a man who "holdeth fast his integrity." Do you know what that means? We might think it refers to his manner of life, honesty, or consistency, but the actual definition means his innocence. Job believed he had not done wrong, that his circumstances were not the result of personal failure. His heart was right before God, so he didn't have to question why hard times came. He knew God was at work. There is a lot to be said for knowing your innocence. It means you don't face self-condemnation, and you stand before your enemy with a pure heart. It gives you a place from which you can evaluate the situation with more wisdom and peace.

The revealing thing to me is that though Job did not question these truths, he still grieved. "His grief was very great" (Job 2:13). He was human. I'm glad God didn't hide Job's emotions from us, but I am equally happy God showed us Job's faith. This makes it even more poignant to read Job 13:15 "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." Though Job did not know why hardship had come his way, and he felt the sting of emotions, he rested his hope on truth. Everything belongs to God, and everything comes from God. So Job chose to trust Him.

If we want to come through our trials shining like gold, like Job, we must follow his example. God works everything according to the counsel of His will. Rest yourself there. That's the secret!

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Week Twenty-Two - Sanctuary

With her eyes cast down, all she saw was ruin and despair. War, politics, and the enemy's ploys rolled through her mind escalating the fear and heaviness that gripped her heart. Then, while strolling through the park, she looked up to see a magnificent tree in full splendor. As the light of the afternoon sun shone through the leaves, the strong, wide branches formed a heavenly sanctuary where God met her questioning heart with the beauty and strength of His word.

Psalm 96:6 reads, "Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary."

Where can we go when the ugliness of this world blinds us? Where are strength and beauty found? Do you need His strength and beauty today? I know I do.

Let's lift our eyes to the truth. God doesn't hide from us. He tells us exactly where to find our soul's deepest need. It is in His sanctuary. A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety. It can be defined as a holy place, temple, or church, but it is also any place where one finds haven, shelter, and safety. I see sanctuary as a place of restoration where the mind and soul rest and realign with God. It might be in your quiet place, or in nature, or at the church altar, but wherever it is, God wants to meet you there.

That day, as I looked up to see the Creator in the strength and beauty of that tree, God reminded me that He is my sanctuary. The beauty I am missing, and the strength I need are found in Him. He is where I go to realign my soul and restore my hope. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 18:10. It reads, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." I've had to run there many times and have always found the sanctuary and restoration I needed.

Dear friend, this old world is winding down to its end, but sanctuary is still found in the Lord. There we see His beauty and receive strength as we hide in Christ. And then, we get back out there and shine for Him. Because there is still hope in Jesus, and He gives reason and purpose to our lives.

As I was reading Job today, I found another treasure in the sanctuary of His word. Job said, "Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?" (Job 12:9). We can rest assured that God is in control of all things, working "all things after the counsel of his own will," as we read in Ephesians 1:11, and then we can join Job in placing our trust solely upon God's sovereignty.

Beauty and strength are restored when we see the light of Scripture shining above the darkness of this old world. Are you feeling hopeless, fearful, and confused? Look up and let Him restore your soul. There is safety, beauty, and strength in the sanctuary of the Lord.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Week Twenty-One - Striking the Rock

God's servant, Moses, was humble, "above all men which were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). From the moment of his birth, his life was full of challenges. Sometimes he did great, and other times he flopped. God spoke to him face to face as with no other man in Scripture, but still, Moses' humanity landed him in trouble.

When Moses shifted his focus off God and onto what was happening around him, he sinned. First, in Egypt, he killed Pharoah's servant. Then, when he grew frustrated with the children of Israel, he struck the rock. Both times, he lost something valuable. By killing the servant, he lost the privilege of his rich home and position in Egypt, and by striking the rock, he lost the opportunity to enter the Promised Land.

Henry Blackaby says, "In his frustration at the people's irreverence, Moses committed the very same sin, blatantly disobeying God's instructions. Moses allowed his attention to shift to the behavior of others rather than focusing on the activity of God."

This can happen to us as well. Blackaby writes, "If you concentrate on people, their weaknesses, their disobedience, their lack of faith, and their stubbornness will quickly frustrate you."

How true is that? How often have you grown weary of the complaining around you and spoke in anger or lost your patience? How many times have you gotten your eyes off the Lord and acted according to what you thought best, only to see it all go up in smoke?

These thoughts revived a truth the Lord began teaching me a truth years ago. Colossians 3:24, 25 reads, "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he that done: and there is no respect of persons."

When I was growing weary and frustrated in ministry, God asked me, "Gail, who are you serving?"

"I serve you, Lord."

"Then, keep your eyes on me and not on everyone around you. I'll take care of them. You just keep yourself in the love of God."

I can't count the times God has reminded me to get back into my place. And here's what I have learned, and learned, and learned! When my focus is on serving the Lord, I am happier, have increased strength for the ministry, serve with a better perspective, and know I am working from a place worthy of reward and pleasing to the Lord. Then, there is joy in serving Jesus.

But when I'm working from the reactions of people or my own agenda, I feel frustration, not patience; anger, not forgiveness; disappointment, not hope; and disgust, not love.

Putting it that way makes my sin easier to see and much less tasteful, doesn't it? Who wants to work with me if I operate in these negative terms? What kind of lousy leader or example am I? If I were in the people's shoes, wouldn't I want someone more positive and encouraging before me? Someone who led in love, hope, forgiveness, and patience? Someone who served Christ and enjoyed it?

Just from these thoughts, I am again reminded that the better way is God's way! Speaking instead of striking - speaking truth in love, pointing others to the same God who lovingly works with my weakness, forgives my disobedience and draws me back to hope and faith.

What about you? Do you, like Moses, strike out when the frustration gets too much? Is your service focused on the Lord Christ, or are you serving people? Serving people leads to disappointment and frustration, but serving Christ holds sure reward.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Week Twenty - What's Next?

Do you ever lay in bed wondering what in the world is going on? How this is all going to work out? What will be next? Sometimes I do, but then my Lord reminds me to faithfully take one day at a time. It's not my job to figure out the future - that's His. My job is to use today wisely and let Him take care of the rest. 

Facing the cross, Jesus left us a pertinent example here. How did He endure the cross and the apprehension? No doubt He knew each painful step along the way. He knew the cost and experienced His own level of trepidation. Elizabeth George says, "Our Lord did not halt all activity to brood over what was to come. He was not incapacitated by the fear of suffering, though he well knew that fear. To the question, 'What shall I do?' (which is so often our cry of despair), he simply answered, "This," and did what lay in his path to do at the moment, trusting himself completely into the hands of the Father. This is how he endured the cross."

And when we begin to wonder what is next, this is how we can endure life and its struggle - one day at a time, doing the next right thing. Will we be tempted to fret and worry? Probably. Will we experience a level of fear? No doubt. But neither of those things need to keep us from continuing forward. Elizabeth Elliot said, "Sometimes fear does not subside, and one must choose to do it afraid."

Here's what I have found. When I sense fear gripping my heart from looking at the things around me, I change my gaze. I mentally make my world much smaller and secure by focusing only on what I can humanly accomplish by God's grace each day. You see, none of us can control world politics. None of us can manage all of the relationships around us. But we can, by using the spiritual fruit of temperance, control ourselves. We can avoid being incapacitated by fear of the future by doing the next right thing.

It might sound simplistic, but the more you learn about the Lord, the more you know He desires nothing more from you than simple faith. That is how you please Him. That is how His peace resonates in your heart. It is by faith. And what you will find is that He is also faithful. He will meet you as you turn to Him and give you the strength, wisdom, and calmness you need to keep moving forward.

So today, let's stop surmising and ruminating over the 'what ifs' of life and focus our energy and faith into the day the Lord has given. I think you'll find His love and comfort waiting for you there!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Week Nineteen - Empty Promises

We all love to hear encouraging words. I've known days when a simple text or online message lifted my spirits and helped me carry on with my day. But just as Christine Hoover said, "No amount of human encouragement will ever meet the deepest need of the heart because it evaporates as soon as the moment passes."

What we really need is to hear encouragement from the ever-faithful, ever-true God. Only He can sustain us in the times of difficulty when human hearts fail, and words seem so empty.

The danger we face with the vast amount of social interaction before us is looking for our encouragement in cyberspace. What we read evaporates and disappears, yet we habitually return looking for new encouraging posts. A steady diet of these morsels will not suffice for a healthy and robust spiritual life.

It would be better to follow King David's example. When faced with the crisis at Ziklag, he didn't look for others to give him happy platitudes or empty promises. He "encouraged himself in the Lord." (1 Samuel 30:6)  He went to Scripture, singing and praying the Psalms and drawing encouragement through faith in God. David knew man's advice was fleeting and could change at any moment, so he placed himself before the Lord and drew strength that carried him through. We, too,  have access to that strength. 

Let me challenge you to not be satisfied with a Facebook post, but open God's word for yourself. Get before the Lord in prayer and let Him speak to your heart. If you don't know where to start, open the book of Psalms and read one Psalm each day. God's posts are eternal and speak directly to your soul.

Wisdom also teaches us to weigh the things we read, to check out the sources, and to try the spirits. Take the picture from this post, for example, "You can do it." This is humanistic thought. "You can do it" encourages you to rely on your own resources and creates unrealistic expectations. You may be able to do it for a while, but your strength will run out.  However, if you change that to "He can do it through you," the encouragement lasts much longer. Philippians 4:13 reads, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Be careful about the words of encouragement the world feeds you. Come back, as David did, to bowing your heart and mind before the Lord and let Him be the "lifter up of your head." (Psalm 3:3) 

So today, have you scoped Facebook looking for encouragement? You might find some. You might read some good stuff. But in a few moments, it will fade. You'll forget it. Better for you to look deeper into God's word and find healthy, eternal truths to feed your soul.


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Week Eighteen - Lessons I Learned From Motherhood

As I watch my children raising their children, it is evident that parenting has changed. Where my childhood meant threats of having my mouth washed out with soap when my word choice was less than acceptable, my grandchildren receive gentle admonitions to a wiser choice of words. Instead of eating what is served without questions, bargaining with tasty treats is their motivation. My parent's command, "You better stop crying, or I'll really give you something to cry about," is now replaced with "I can see you're upset. Take a deep breath and use your words."

I'm not saying I want to go back to living under threats, but I do wonder how this coming generation will deal with the reality and harshness of life. But that's not what I want to discuss today. Instead, I want to look at six things about mothering that have not changed. Things every mother - no matter what generation - learns. So here we go!

First, I learned that organization and consistent discipline pay great benefits for me and my children - most of the time! Mothering requires precision plus plan b, c, and d if things don't work out. In other words, mothers need to learn to be organized and flexible!

Next, I learned that kids don't care. They love messy things. They aren't worried about showing your most embarrassing photo with great pride. They will invite friends in when the house is like a bomb, and they'll never blink an eye. My grandmother, who was a good housekeeper, had a little sign in her kitchen that read, "Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy." And sometimes mothers forget that kids don't care. They love you anyway. So, put hospitality before pride, and don't let it get the best of you.

One of my greatest lessons was that I have a breaking point. I'm not, and neither is any mother, a superwoman. We are just simple beings trying to do our best. And when we reach that breaking point, we may as well admit it. The kids need to learn this too. Don't push mom beyond the breaking point. It might not be pretty!

I learned to stop comparing my brood to others and pay attention to my own nest for peace of mind. There will always be someone doing things better. Good for them. And there will be those who struggle. I can pray and help where I can, but God only asks me to care for my own little group. No parent is perfect, myself included.

The family in Proverbs 31 praised their mother. My praise will come when I remember that humility has a flavor, and I need to learn to enjoy it. Proverbs 15:33 reads, "Before honor is humility." So, I learned to laugh when things go wrong, admit my failures, and remember I don't have to be right every time.

Finally, as I look back, it all passes too quickly. My grandmother wisely told me, "Gail, stop and enjoy them. They are only children once." I am thankful I listened to her advice because it does pass too quickly, and they are never little children again.

So, moms. On this Mother's Day weekend, take time to simply look at the beauty of your children and think about what you have learned from motherhood with a thankful and humble heart.

Here's my brood in 1983 and then in 1995. Today, they are grown, married, and faithful to the Lord in their various places. I am thankful the Lord made them a part of my life. I learned so much!


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Week Seventeen - Just an Old Pot


That morning, as I looked into the mirror, trying to arrange my hair and look presentable, I let forth a deep sigh. It was no use. Age was winning. The grey hairs and the subtle but visible wrinkles told the true story. No amount of fixing and painting could cover up the outward evidence.

Then, after I opened my Bible and filled my heart with God's love and acceptance, my devotion read -

"The contents of the earthen vessels, not the containers themselves, were of great value. The jars would become chipped and broken and would deteriorate over time, but nobody thought of the jar - they were interested in its content...our greatest possession is that which God has placed within us. When people focus on us, they see a frail, imperfect, and deteriorating vessel. Nothing that comes from our flesh is worthy of praise. Our bodies are aging and losing strength (2 Cor 4:16). Only as we allow God to fill us and renew our inner self will people see a treasure of immeasurable worth. Don't focus on outward appearance and physical strength, for these deteriorate. Rather, allow the Holy Spirit to convince you of the infinite treasure that is within you because of God's presence." (Henry Blackaby)

My puny spirit began to revive as I thought of the infinite treasures in my earthen vessel. I have the abiding presence of the Lord and the Spirit of God filling my heart. I have the peace of God that passes understanding. I have the blood of Christ covering my sin, and I have the hope of glory as an anchor for my soul. 

As I ebb closer and closer to another birthday, I know my inner man is the actual estimation of my age. I might be just an old pot on the outside - and growing older every day, chipped, cracked, and somewhat unattractive, but inside is a glorious spirit waiting to burst forth.

If you are a child of God, you have the same glorious Spirit within you. It is our privilege and responsibility to let this precious and beautiful treasure shine through our eyes, words, and being so others can see Christ within us. It reminds me of 1 Peter 3:2-4, "While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

So today, dear old friend, let's allow the beauty of Christ within us to be reflected in all we do and walk worthy of the infinite treasure we hold in our hearts. Then by God's grace, let's do what we can to take good care of our old pots!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Week Sixteen - Wacky Cake

"As I assembled the items needed to make a family favorite, I couldn't help but compare the basic recipe for the chocolate cake I was making to the makeup of common, everyday life.

Begin with bitter chocolate
Stir in some dry, tasteless flour
Add several raw eggs and some sour milk
Mix thoroughly and add several more ingredients
Bake in a hot oven
The end result: a lovely chocolate cake.

Now, think about your life - the bitter, the dry, the raw, the sour, the mixing, and the heat. Sounds bad, doesn't it? And it feels bad when it is happening. But in God's hands, these things - these unpleasant and uncomfortable and unlovely elements and components of life - will result in something good. That's the promise and the hope of Romans 8:28. In God's hands, the ingredients of our lives will always work out ultimately for our good and, even better, for His eternal purposes.

The next time you are facing the bitterness, the sourness, the agitation, or the heat of life, let this promise encourage you to trust in the Lord and to love Him with all your mind. Know that God is in control And that His end will be good. Know that He will work together all things for good. As the saying goes, 'If you are taking a beating, cheer up! God is just stirring the batter to bring you a blessing!'" (Elizabeth George, Loving God with All Your Mind, pages 177-178)

As I thought about this cake story, I remembered an old recipe for a Wacky Cake, and my thoughts took another turn. One of the misnomers in life is that we should all be alike, live the same way, and be a part of the same group. But we are all different in so many ways. God loves variety. Just look at us! The only thing we have in common is sin - we are all sinners, all broken. But God uses our differences and His specific, unique methods to make us well-pleasing to Him. You see, God is beyond the confines of human boundaries. And we - we are His workmanship; unique, peculiar, and individual. 

For all our figuring out, our study of Scripture, and the methods we develop, the God factor remains - He is still the Creator. While we know He always honors His Word and remains faithful to His characteristics, His work in the human heart is beyond our understanding. But because He knows the heart of man, the true motivation of every individual, and the choices we each make, He works with the exact amount of agitation, heat, and ingredients to create a beautiful, individualistic, finished product for His glory.

We grow frustrated when we don't understand or things don't go along with our program. He doesn't. He works according to the purpose of His will. It might look like a mess to us, but if we trust the Maker and His word, He will do the work no matter how broken we are. Trust Him - He wrote the recipe!

Below is the recipe for a wacky cake. There are no eggs or milk, and it is not mixed in a bowl but directly into the ungreased baking pan. Do you think it will turn out even if it isn't done like any cake you have ever made? It will. And so will your life, if you entrust it to the Maker!

Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
4 T unsweetened cocoa
1t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Sift the above ingredients into an ungreased 8x8 cake pan. Make three depressions and put one of the following into each depression.

1t vanilla
1T cider vinegar
6T vegetable oil

Gently pour 1 cup of warm water over the ingredients and stir well with a fork.

Bake 350/175 for 30-40 minutes.


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Week Fifteen - Randomly Righteous

As we come to the Easter season, many people start acting more righteous. They may attend a church service, give up something for Lent, and even speak of Jesus. But sadly, the rest of the year, except for Christmas, they rarely attend church, talk of Jesus, or behave righteously. More often than not, they cannot be distinguished from every other Joe on the street.

Random righteousness is not the call of sincere Christianity. God wants us to love Him with our whole being, not seasonal affection. What if God's love were like our own? What if He only expressed His love on our birthday or at Christmas? Would we believe His love is genuine? Wouldn't we feel somewhat cheated?

But many times, that is how we express our love to God. We base our love on expressions of religiosity instead of committed faithful benevolence. We are randomly righteous - when it suits us.

It's like those who occasionally pick up their Bible, open it, and point to a verse to read, hoping to get something out of chance selection. Reading random Scriptures won't provide solid biblical growth any more than eating random food provides solid physical growth. You need a steady diet.

And to know the love of God that, according to Ephesians 3:19, passes knowledge and fills us with the fullness of God, you must be actively involved in His love. That means recognizing His presence, praising Him for His mercy through prayer and heartfelt gratitude, and, as Jesus said, showing our love by keeping His commandments. He wasn't talking of the Ten Commandments, but the New Testament commands to love and obey God in all things. Jude 21, 22 encourages us to keep ourselves in the love of God. And as we whole-heartedly participate in the avenues of worship, prayer, and service, we position ourselves to be recipients of God's love in intimate ways.

This Easter, why not take a serious look at your attitude and commitment to righteousness? I'm not talking about putting on airs or wearing a Jesus t-shirt. I'm talking about laying aside half-hearted love and stepping up to sincere devotion to a Saviour who loved you enough to give it all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Week Fourteen - Distress and Glory

Sometimes a little devotion speaks volumes. A few weeks ago, as I was reading from Henry Blackaby's devotional, Experiencing God Day by Day, I had to take time to think and praise. Instead of telling you what he said, I'm just going to share this little three-paragraph devotion, and I believe you, too, will want to take time to think and let praise rise from your heart.

He writes, 

   "Did you know that you bring glory to God by calling upon Him when you are in distress? God promised He would deliver you if you turned to Him. You deny the Lord honor that is rightfully His every time you find yourself in difficulty and you fail to call upon Him for help! There may be times when God allows you to reach a point of need so that you can call upon Him, and thus let Him demonstrate to a watching world the difference He makes in the lives of His children. If God never allowed you to experience need, people around you might never have the opportunity to witness God's provision in the life of a Christan. If you never faced a shortfall, you might be tempted to feel self-sufficient and without any need of God in your daily life.
     Pride will tempt you to think that you do not need to seek God's assistance. Self-regard will seek to convince you that you can handle your dilemma through your own wisdom, resources, and hard work. Pride will also rob glory from God and seek to give it to you. Don't allow your pride to take what rightfully belongs to the Lord. Call upon your Lord and wait exclusively upon Him to rescue you. Then give Him the glory that He deserves.
    Self-sufficiency can greatly hinder our ability to experience God and bring Him honor. The next time you are in distress, turn to Him!"

I had never thought of trials in this way or of the idea that my calling upon the Lord when I was at my wit's end was a way of honoring Him. But in Psalm 50:15, God says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."

Dear friend, maybe we need to lay aside our self-sufficiency and pride and humbly lay our burdens at the cross. Perhaps we need to start thinking more about how our lives, as messy as they are, can be used to glorify God. Maybe we need to see that He loves to deliver! Let's not deny Him that pleasure!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Week Thirteen - Bearing Christianly

Thomas Boston wrote, "Let us then set ourselves rightly to bear and carry under the crook in our lot, while God sees meet to continue it. What we cannot mend, let us bear Christianly, and not fight against God, and so kick against the pricks."

This idea of "bear Christianly" caught my attention. I think this is what the Apostle Paul often meant as he instructed Timothy and others to bear the burdens of life with Christian grace.

I went to look for verses using the word bear, and there were several.

1 Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

Galatians 6:2 "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

1 Corinthians 3:2 "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able."

But these are different ideas from what Thomas Boston and the Apostle Paul want us to understand.
What does it mean to bear Christianly? If we look at the quote, I think we can see some hints. "Let us then set ourselves rightly to bear and carry under the crook in our lot." We all have our crosses to bear and our difficulties in life. We should set ourselves rightly by submitting our wills and adjusting our attitudes to accept them with Christian grace. 
"While God sees meet to continue it." Trials and difficulties have a time frame, and only God can make that call. How we deal with them while God directs them through our lives reveals our character and grows our faith. We also need to realize that nothing comes into our lives without the counsel of God, so every trial, every burden, has an eternal purpose.
"What we cannot mend." Some difficulties are our own making. Forgiveness, restitution, and humility can solve a lot of our problems. And this we should do. But some misfortunes we cannot mend. It is then that we need to look carefully at our response. Are we fighting against God, angry at the inconvenience or pain of our situation? Are we kicking against the pricks, grieving the Spirit by being unwilling to submit to learning what God might be teaching? This is the opposite of "bearing Christianly." 
Here's what I think. Ephesians 4:1, 2 holds the simplest explanation. "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love."
We are prisoners of the Lord. He captured our hearts, bought us out of the slave market, and sealed us as eternally bound to him. This is now our vocation - our calling, and we should walk worthy of our Master, whose example is the same. When He faced the cruelest of deaths, the depths of despair, and the unfairness of shameful rejection, He bore His cross with dignity, lowliness, meekness, and longsuffering in love for us.
He didn't fight against God or kick against His assignment, but rather, as 1 Peter 2:23 says, "when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." That, my friend, is bearing Christianly.
How are you doing with that?

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Week Twelve - Strap on Your Weapons

This past week I was teaching counseling at the Bible college in England. I always finish out my notes encouraging students to learn how to use the weapons of our warfare that are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4) Let's look at these together.

Our first great weapon is prayer. Sometimes we treat prayer as an afterthought, but prayer is worship, work, and warfare. Without being energized by prayer, we are working from our own strength, and when we face strongholds and awful situations in life, we are not prepared.

One of the best books I ever read on prayer is Life's Limitless Reach by Jack Taylor. He breaks prayer down into three forms. First, we use praise and thanksgiving to enhance our worship, intercession and petition in our work toward man, and the word of faith - rehearsing truth and resistance in prayer - toward the enemy.

Knowing God's Holy Spirit is right beside us when we pray to interpret and direct our prayers, as we read in Romans 8:26, 27, we can avoid praying from our fear of problems and from the ground of ourselves. 

When we pray from the ground of the problem as we see it, we will be problem conscious, and that yields mourning, despair, and worry. If we pray from the ground of ourselves, we will be self-conscious, which causes us morbid introspection and loss of hope. But if we pray from the foundation of who God is and what He has done, we will be God-conscious and that brings us hope, gladness, purpose, and victory.

Prayer is a vital tool. The next tool we discussed was the wonderful Word of God. Matthew Henry writes - "To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph 6:17). It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection and subdues the most formidable adversary."

The word of God was Jesus' weapon against the enemy's temptation - surely, it is one we need to effectively wield as well.

The third weapon is the Name of Jesus. Satan must flee in the presence of Christ. Proverbs 18:10 says, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe." I imagine it as locking myself away in a tower, and over the door, as I slam it shut, is the Name of the Lord. Satan cannot enter!

Revelation 12:11 gives us three more powerful weapons. It reads - "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."  To overcome - that's what we want, isn't it? To overcome those feelings, to overcome the enemy? Well, this verse gives us three more weapons for that purpose.

First is the blood of Christ. There is power in the blood. Remember the Passover night? Remember the use of blood through the tabernacle? Remember the blood shed for you on Calvary that makes you a child of God? That blood shed in perfect obedience to the Father is a power against which Satan cannot stand. He is the direct opposite of obedience. So, plea the blood for protection, for the tearing down of strongholds, and present your requests to the Father based on the Blood of Christ. You are covered and complete in Christ, loved with an everlasting love. You are His, and He is yours through the Blood of Christ - what a wonderful place to stand!

The word of our testimony is another weapon we fail to recognize. It simply means speak about the Lord. Share what He has done in your life with others. Brag on God. The more you talk of HIm, the more you will recognize Him at work around you. So, don't be afraid to praise Him out loud.

And, finally, the idea of sacrifice - love not your life. The Apostle Paul counted nothing in life do dear as his position in Christ.  Phil 2:7  That is the opposite of what we hear today. We spend so much of our Christian life listening about God's love for us, His acceptance of us, how we need to love ourselves, and that we are worthy and beautiful in His sight. Which we are. But that gets our focus too much on ourselves. Love not your life. Be willing to sacrifice and give of yourself to others. There is much to be said for our sheer determination to trust God and give ourselves wholly to Him even when we do not understand, even when it all looks bleak, even when it all goes wrong. Our undying faith in His ability and our willingness to follow unto death are a source of power. Unwavering faith is a powerful weapon.

So there you have it in a condensed form. Five powerful weapons for the use of Christians. Prayer, God's Word, the name of Jesus, the blood of Christ, the word of our testimony, and unwavering faith.

Strap them on each day and see what God can do with your battles!

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Week Eleven - Count Your Defenses

I've been reading Facebook reports from missionaries about the situation in Ukraine that have blessed my heart. God is so at work among these people. They see God providing safe passage, finding lost family members, causing bombs not to explode, and confusing and hindering the enemy. And this current war isn't the only time these things have happened. Christians have been in the middle of war before. 

I read the following story in Elizabeth George's book, Loving God with All Your Mind, and I just had to share it with you today. As you read, remember, the truth of this story is not only for those in harm's way, but it is also available to you. 

"Dr. and Mrs. Nelson Bell ministered in China for 20 years during a time in China's history that was characterized by unrest and political and military upheaval. At one point, this faithful couple lay in their dugout shelter, not knowing their fate. The situation appeared to be hopeless, and these missionaries could easily have been overwhelmed by panic and despair. The choice was theirs...and they chose to view their situation through the lens of God's truth. Mrs. Bell reports - we were counting over our defenses. Overhead are the overshadowing wings (Psalm 91:4); underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27); all around the angel of the Lord is encamped around them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7); inside, the peace which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7); also, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3). The Bell's focus on God's truth calmed their hearts and strengthened them to endure the challenges they faced."

Aren't those beautiful truths? I don't know if I would have the presence of mind and the courage required to face such a trial, but my heart was blessed and encouraged to look at the defenses afforded the child of God. We are covered by His protection.

And here's the thing, we can choose to look at life and its challenges based on the truths stated in Scripture, or we can allow our minds to wander and create all sorts of fear and anxiety. When we are faced with strenuous and challenging situations, it is wisest to keep our minds attuned to the strength of God's word and His promises that will help us maintain a sound mind.

So, today, as you pray for the Ukraine and Russia, ask the Lord to continue surrounding His people with divine protection and set a guard on your own heart - count your defenses!

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Week Ten - What in the World Can We Do?

My grandparents were of that greatest generation who experienced two World Wars, the Great Depression, civil rights, the Vietnam war, and went from riding in horse-drawn buggies to driving a computerized Lincoln Continental. I learned so much from them and loved hearing their stories. One thing that always came through was their faith in God, who took them through every experience. 

We face a time in history none of us would have ever imagined, even five years ago. It is all entirely out of our control. This pandemic showed us how vulnerable we are to small invisible things, and this impending conflict shows us how vulnerable we are to huge visible things. So what in the world can we do?

Well, as I thought back to the advice of my grandparents, I could hear their voices saying, "Gail, just do the next right thing. Trust the Lord. Be wise with your decisions and leave the rest to Him."

In her book, Loving God with All Your Mind, Elizabeth George gives a way to look at what we are now experiencing. In my journal, I recorded her statement, "Nothing has just randomly happened to put you where you are." God is more detailed and involved in our well-being than that!

It all seems so random, doesn't it? Like there is no purpose, rhyme, or reason for the pandemic and this conflict, but God says there is purpose. He has rhyme and reason even when we can't figure out the tune. We are to acknowledge His hand in all things no matter what circumstance we face because it has been filtered through God's hands. It isn't happenstance; it is providence. And how does that help us? 

We can better endure difficult times when we acknowledge God is in complete control. Elizabeth George says, "Thinking the truth about God and our circumstances can help eliminate insecurity, bewilderment, blaming, and bitterness. We can then enjoy greater peace...in our trying situations." You see, it is a matter of perspective. We are to be looking to Him at all times. 

And what can we do in the meantime? We can pray, and we should. We can give, and let's hope we do.
But most of all, let's keep on keeping on. This is no time to throw up our hands and quit. Keep loving the Lord. Continue serving where you can. Elizabeth Elliot said, "Quietly do the next thing." Do what you should do where you are. You certainly can't do anything where you are not. Concentrate and keep your life together by focusing on what God would have you do. "Roll up your sleeves and serve God and others in the present, even in your hard times." (Elizabeth George)

Then, concentrate on the promises of God. There are many in God's word, too many to list, but even if you only know a few, let them be the meditation of your mind and heart. "They assure you over and over again of the nature and reality of God and His character. Through them you will never lose sight of the bright hope of your future. You can have glorious hope even when life looks hopeless."

And that was the key my grandparents emulated. They had hope, even when life looked hopeless. Their hope was not in the government or themselves but in the God of heaven. The same God we have today. He carried them through when they wondered what in the world they could do. And He will carry us through as well.

So, roll up your sleeves and prepare your heart! There might be a rocky road ahead!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Week Nine - Praying for Ukraine

I don't usually take on political subjects, and I hope not to cross too far over that border today, but sitting by without speaking up is not helpful either. Our prayers for the people of Ukraine and Russia are paramount.

I have been praying for the situation, as I'm sure you have, while the world waits to see what will be the outcome. Maybe it will be sorted out, perhaps the war will escalate, or we will see World War III. Only God knows. But in the meantime, we must remember that our prayers hold power.

The other day, I caught myself praying from a position of fear asking the Lord not to involve my countries, keep the enemy at bay, and protect and help us. God was not pleased. Without realizing it,  my prayer became selfish and self-protecting. Oh, I included a request for the people involved in the war, but fear meant my prayer was not God-honoring.

"Gail," He said, "I can answer those prayers, but you can pray bigger than that."  So, I stopped to listen to the Spirit speak.

The first reminder I received was David's prayer in 2 Samuel 15:31. David prayed, "O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." Ahithophel's counsel was, according to 2 Samuel 16:23, "as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God." He was the principal counselor for David and Absalom and held great respect. In the story, Absalom is trying to take the kingdom from David. And when David realizes that Ahithophel is on Absalom's side, David knows only God can hinder the counsel of Ahithophel. We can pray something similar. "Lord, turn the counsel of the enemy to foolishness."

In 2 Kings 7:3-20, we have the story of the four lepers who discovered the Syrian army had fled in the night. After besieging Israel to the point of starvation, verses six and seven say, "For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us...wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight." So, we can pray, "Lord, cause confusion to the enemy to confound their way."

And in 1 Samuel 7:8, the Philistines are again gathering to fight against Israel, and Samuel tells the people, "Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines." So, we should not stop praying for God to deliver all of us from the hand of the enemy. There is a loss of life on both sides of the battle, and it is our job to hold them all up in prayer.

"There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord" (Proverbs 21:30). He knows what is happening. And "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Proverbs 21:1). God can change everything around according to His will.

He is not intimidated or restricted by the efforts of the enemy. We then, needn't cower in our closets but "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). Today is a time of need!

Here are a few more ways to pray.

"Lord, show yourself mighty to deliver. May the world see a miracle of mercy that can only be attributed to Your Hand."

"Give, Lord, great grace and boldness to those at the front. Grant them courage and fortitude."

"Lord, open the door for the Gospel to have freedom in Ukraine and Russia and for hearts to respond."

So, while the war rages, we must pray with great boldness, in fearless faith, and storm the throne room of Heaven.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Week Eight - The Truth about Scarecrows


Last week, we looked at a quote on prayer by Hannah Hurnard from her book, The Hearing Heart. Today, we will look at one more quote. Her discussion is on having a listening heart that can discern.

She writes, "As with the virgins in the parable, so with the birds in the field, there are two kinds, the wise and the foolish. A wise bird knows that a scarecrow is simply an advertisement. It announces in the most forceful and picturesque way that in the garden which it does its best to adorn some very juicy and delicious fruit is to be had for the picking. There are scarecrows in all the best gardens. Every thoughtful bird learns in time to regard a scarecrow as an invitation to a banquet. He feels as a hungry man feels when he hears a dinner bell ring and swoops down upon the delicacies to which the scarecrow calls him. If I am wise, I too shall treat the scarecrow as though it were a dinner bell. Every giant in the way which makes me feel like a grasshopper is only a scarecrow beckoning me to God's highest blessings. Faith is a bird which loves to perch on scarecrows. She knows there are scarecrows wherever thee are strawberries. All our fears are groundless."

I'd never thought about scarecrows this way. Had you? I do remember my grandparents putting them up in their garden. Eventually, though, they used aluminum plates because they would blow in the wind and make noise. But Ms. Hurnard is not bothered by the intention of a scarecrow. Instead, she is trying to get us to see a more profound truth.

The scarecrow - the trial - the test of faith - is but an indicator that God is there. Instead of running away in fear, we should run into His arms. That's where the blessing is, where we will find safety, and where our faith should perch.

There are some awfully scary things in front of us right now, and there are more ahead, but we need to remember the truth about scarecrows; they wouldn't be there if God's blessing wasn't there as well.

I think this is similar to what Paul was saying when he wrote, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24)  He wasn't about to let a scarecrow keep him from finishing his calling. He knew the blessing was on the other side, and all his fears were groundless.

What about you? Do you run away when things get scary? Do you fear going out into the field of service? Or, like Paul, are you looking past the scarecrows and setting your face toward the Lord and the fulfillment of your calling? Are you a wise bird or a foolish one?

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Week Seven - The Hearing Heart

Today I'm reflecting on a couple of quotes I copied out of an old book by Hannah Hurnard entitled The Heart Heart. I thought you might enjoy them, too. So let's look at one today and another one next week.

Hannah Hurnard is best known for her book, Hinds Feet in High Places, but she also wrote many other books. I really enjoyed reading The Hearing Heart as she reminds her readers of the importance of taking time with God. You know, and so do I, that praying and listening are vital parts of a healthy, growing relationship not only with the Lord but also with those around us. That's why it is so important to have a praying heart that is ready to listen to the Lord.

In her discussion on prayer, she writes, "It is not, of course, that prayer changes God, or awakens in Him purposes of love and compassion which He has not already felt. No, it changes us, and therein lies its glory and purpose. It helps us to outer dependence upon God and gives Him the opportunity to confirm our trust in Him and experience His grace in a way which would be absolutely impossible otherwise."

Have you ever been in the place of prayer when God moves uniquely to change your mind? I have. I've known times when a simple whisper of His word to my listening heart brought resolution and comfort. Prayer can do that! And with every close encounter, God does more work on my heart. With my mind, heart, and ears focused on hearing from Him, prayer becomes more than a token; it becomes a source.

She continues, "God has got everything ready and planned in order to meet our needs before we ever realize what they are. But in order to teach us this joy of utter dependence and trust, He waits for us to ask. Prayer doesn't change God, but not to make our requests known in joyful trust does deprive Him of the joy of granting our requests, and it does deprive us of the joy of experiencing His loving, intimate interest in every detail of our lives. It was the Lord Jesus Himself who said, "Ye have not because ye ask not. Ask and ye shall receive."

Just today, I have been faced with three urgent prayer requests that brought me to remember God has everything planned and will meet the need. But, as Hannah says, for me to fail to ask would "deprive Him of the joy of granting the request," and it would deprive me of the "joy of experiencing His loving, intimate interest in every detail."

What about you? Is your prayer life a close encounter or a passing comment? Does your relationship with God through prayer change you, or are you not listening?

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Week Six - Disgruntled

Do you ever get fed up with the routine of life? The constant dishes, laundry, housework, and meal prep? I do. It all seems so pointless and feels like obstacles to my path. I catch myself grumbling and resentful as I slap another meal on the table. But then, I remember what the Lord has often taught me about serving as unto Him and giving with cheerfulness of heart. 

I even recall my blog from months ago about Angels in the Kitchen. I went back and reread it. Here's a link for you - https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/preview/7763906062119542948/8823386911993999160 

And, though I know these things, God must constantly remind me because I still get disgruntled.

When I compare these routine jobs to the purpose of my life, they seem too trivial. Well, of course, the Lord was not going to let me pout and stomp my foot without speaking directly to my heart. "Gail," He said, "This is a part of your purpose. A part of the plan I have for your life. This is where you are, and you will be happier to serve on purpose with a willing heart."

"I hear you, Lord, but..."

I then turned to read Loving God with All Your Heart by Elizabeth George. I have been reading a chapter each day, but I hadn't picked it up since I have been poorly for the past week or so. As I began reading, I remembered she was writing about Romans 8:28 - "all things work together for good." But I wasn't prepared for the Lord to speak directly to my disgruntled state. 

She writes, "I exist to serve Him and His people according to the gifts He has given me and in the situations where He places me. The constant awareness that God has a purpose for us gives us great hope when the day-to-day practicalities and challenges discourage and bewilder us."

Okay, Lord...

Who am I to complain? Eating, laundry, and dishes are a part of the practicalities of life. No one can escape them. How silly and wasteful for me to get so annoyed. A portion of my purpose is to survive and help those in my household do the same. I am not a gifted cook, but I can serve you and my family by faithfully putting food on the table. I can keep the kitchen clean for health and safety. And the laundry does smell good once it is all said and done. These jobs bring joy when performed with a less disgruntled spirit. This is the situation where I am placed. I am better to be thankful and serve with gladness in this portion of my purpose.

Dear friend, it is easy for any of us to get disgruntled with the routine of life or find ourselves in a rut. But that does not deter or cancel the plan of God. Whatever we do, whatever our job, whatever responsibility, we can do it graciously as unto the Lord. As we serve others, we are fulfilling His purpose for our lives. So, join me in laying aside a disgruntled spirit and look to the blessing of health to do the trivial. Let's choose to be thankful for food on the table and clothes for our backs and that we have loved ones who need  our service.

Disgruntled or gracious - which do you want to be?

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Week Five - Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time...what a phrase! 

Once - we have only one go at life.
Upon - an action of influence.
Time - a set portion.

And that's what we have - one life/one time to make a difference. The Bible assures us of this truth.

Our lives are like a tale that is told, leaving one story behind. (Psalm 90:9)

Our lives are like a vapor. James tells us, "For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14).

And our lives have a specific fragrance - a sweet-smelling savor to the Lord, or they stink.

These thoughts bring me back to my phrase for 2022 - Living with a purpose to make a difference.

If I have only one life, I want to make it the best I can. I want to use it wisely and spend my energy on things of eternal value because I know I have eternal life!

If my life is to have influence, if my tale is to be told, I want it to be of Christ, to point others to Him, and make a difference influencing others to faithfully follow the Lord.

If I have only one time - one set portion in this vast eternity to leave a short fragrant story. No matter how brief it is, I want to make it count. I certainly don't want it to stink!

All of this brings me back to looking at life from a different vantage point. Oh, I could wish for all sorts of things, places to see, or something to do, and all of that will probably come along the way. But if those things become my focus, I am not looking up to all life could be. Instead, I'm looking down at the temporary and forgetting there is more to life than humdrum existence. There is eternity, and while we use our little vapor life in frivolous pursuits, we are letting it go up in smoke.

I want to live larger. God gives me joys along the way, the desires of my heart, and blesses my life abundantly. I can attest to that! But if I am going to use 2022 to live with purpose to make a difference, I can't focus on stuff. I must focus on Him. I must keep in mind the shortness of my life, the fleeting time I have here on this earth, and use it wisely.

Once upon a time is today. What will I do with it? What will you do with yours?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Week Four - What is Your Purpose?

Remember I said my word for 2022 is purpose - to live with purpose to make a difference? Well, a significant part of living with purpose is knowing your purpose! Because we have a natural bent toward self-centeredness, we tend to look for purpose within ourselves. But Henry Blackaby wrote, "Only the power of God can free us from our natural self-centeredness and reorient us toward the mission of God."

Sometimes I think people believe following God is dull, too hard, unrealistic, or too limiting. Maybe they feel God isn't interested in them or doesn't understand the world they live in. Perhaps they don't see life further than the end of their nose or have taken a few hits and want to draw into themselves for protection. But for whatever reason, some people do find it hard to trust God and leave self behind. 

When they do that, life's purpose becomes small and limited. Living life only to please self makes self a god. And self can be a daunting task-master who is never satisfied, constantly questioning, demanding, and volatile. Self changes with every whim and rarely finds satisfaction.

But compare self with God. God is huge and unlimited. He is The God and a loving Father who blesses His children with love and mercy. He is always faithful and giving and never changes. He fills our hungry soul and meets our every need with a deepness of understanding as only He can do. We could go on and on about the attributes of God, and in every case, we would see He is of incomparable greatness when placed beside ourselves.

Why does this matter? Well, if my purpose is to live for myself, I'm wasting my time. But if my purpose is larger than myself, I have more to look forward to, more meaning, more influence, and God can use me for His mission.

It isn't hard to see God's heart - His mission. He came seeking to save and is not willing that any perish. Missions is His mission. Yet, when we ask what aspects of the Christian life are most important, we sometimes fail to prioritize missions. That is because we have lost track of why God saved us in the first place. We were not saved from our sin to simply qualify for heaven. We were delivered from sin to have a relationship with Him through which He carries out His mission to redeem the lost world.

Henry Blackaby writes, "There is no need to pray that God would come in power. That is the only way He ever comes. We need hearts that are so responsive to Him that He will choose to demonstrate His power through us. Is your heart so filled with love for God that you are watching for the first opportunity to say with Isaiah, 'Here am I. Send me!'?"

So that defines my purpose - to be used of God in His mission. Some days, that might be speaking directly to someone about the Lord, or it might be just a kind word or a loving action on another day. It could be doing my job as unto the Lord or humbling serving with a giving heart. But however God designs each day to play out, my purpose remains the same - to be used of Him.  

So, what is your purpose? Are you looking for opportunities to serve? Are you willing to give of yourself to others? Do you see that God asks each of us to be involved? Are you living with purpose to make a difference in the world around you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Week Three - Whoosh!

Whoosh! And just like that, Christmas and New Year are behind us, and we forge on into the unwritten days of 2022. This past couple of years seems like such a blur, and with no idea of what is ahead, sometimes we are tempted to look forward with dread. The other day, someone posted a short video about the size of the universe and the Hubble telescope's search to find what is out there in the vast expanse of space. I don't usually stop to watch these things, but I did watch this one because - little trivia bit - Edwin Hubble was from Marshfield, Missouri, my hometown!

Anyway, as the video proceeded to show the size of our earth by comparison to the size of stars ten times the size of our sun, and the little black spot found by the telescope that, after four months of searching, held 10,000 more solar systems, the size of one individual was reduced to total insignificance. Even our earth becomes just a fleck of dust compared to the size of the cosmos.

It is enough to bring things into perspective, isn't it? 

Then Scripture came flooding to the front of my thoughts. "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Psalm 8:3, 4). We are less than an insignificant fleck of dust, and yet, God loved us and sent His Son for our redemption. 

I know the scientists and astronomers are searching for more life in the great out there, and I have no idea if they will find it. But there is life here. Life ordained and created by a God of love with a vested interest in what happens on this tiny spinning sphere.

As I thought about these things, I recognized how we tend to think our world is so very important. We take all so seriously and come to believe we are necessary or like demi-gods, but we are nothing compared to our God. We are, as David said, but worms. (Psalm 22:6)

By Him, by Christ, all things consist - not by us (Colossians 1:17). We can't even count the hairs on our heads or increase our natural height, yet with Him, nothing is impossible. What a magnificent God we serve who knows our every movement, thought, and molecule while He waters every moment and thinks of us more times than the sands of the sea. We can't even calculate that! And yet we pass our days thinking only of ourselves, our world, and our importance. 

It is a humbling thought, isn't it? That the God of this vast universe would choose to know you personally. He would love you with His everlasting love and take all your cares if you cast them to Him. If you meditate on this yourself, I'm sure you will find a blessing. I came to one more thought.

If this great, expansive God cares so much about me, what does He want from me? Micah 6:8 came to mind. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"  

Walk humbly. We are just a speck of dust. Love mercy. God's mercy is shown toward us, and our mercy should be directed toward others on this minor crumbling planet. Do justly. Do what is right, knowing that our time is like a vapor, and whoosh, we are gone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Week Two - Living With Purpose

Sunday's sermon was based on Jude 22 - "And of some have compassion, making a difference." And our Sunday school lesson was on slothfulness. You might ask, "How do those two go together?" Well, I was amazed at how God weaved the two thoughts to create for me a vision for the new year. Basically, I'm going from this phrase - Live with purpose to make a difference. So, purpose is my word for 2022. 

You see, purpose gives direction, meaning, and motivation to creativity and service. The slothful person is easily bored because they have lost or have no real sense of purpose. 

And, making a difference? Well, how we treat others matters. It makes a difference. Jude is telling us compassion is the key. If we want to see things change, if we're going to make a difference and live with purpose, we must exercise compassion.

Showing compassion takes many forms. It can be as simple as sharing a cup of cold water, a listening ear, or a loving word spoken in due time. Compassion might look like a good deed, a batch of cookies, or a helping hand. Compassion can be prayer or encouragement. But no matter what form it takes, it is always active. 

To make a difference, there must be action, which may require change. Compassion doesn't say bless your heart and remain inactive. No! Compassion gets off the porch and reaches out to meet the need. It gives without grudging; it cares deeply enough to take the initiative.

And when it is seen, it makes a difference in three ways. 1) There is God's blessing and the knowledge of obedient, loving service for the one showing compassion. 2) for the receiver - they see God's hand at work and rejoice with thankfulness for their need being met. Finally, 3) to the wider community - they see God in action, are drawn to love, and motivated by example.

It's time for all of us to get up and live with purpose - not the purpose of self. 2020-2021 has given enough of that. But it's time to move forward with compassion, reaching out to others, getting off our porch, and making a difference - on purpose. And watch God give the increase.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Week One - Fresh Eyes

Well, here we are in the first week of 2022, and we are still facing Covid. But with the New Year comes the opportunity to refresh our mindset, a reboot if you will, and the chance to rekindle hope and look at the future with fresh eyes. 

God opened my heart to a fresh way of thinking through a quote from my devotion book a few weeks ago. The author wrote, "We define our humanity as a cage from which we cannot escape. Jesus defines it as the image of the invisible God." (Chris Tiegreen)

I stopped right there and began musing on the difference. It is an amazing perspective. If I see myself trapped in human form, I will act accordingly. I will feel bound, defeated, small, and limited. But, if I use fresh eyes with Bible truth - that I am made in the image of God, created on purpose for His glory, and free in Christ - it is reflected in my actions, thoughts, and attitude.

My mind started drawing even more comparisons.

If I live seeing myself trapped in human form, I see myself as limited.  But if I see myself as in God's image, I know I am free, created for more, and the possibilities are limitless.

If I live seeing myself trapped in human form, I will feel bound by sin. But if I see myself as in God's image, I know I am free through the offering of Christ. Free, because He is my Saviour. The price of my sin has been paid.

If I see myself trapped in human form, I live full of guilt. But if I see myself as in God's image, I know there is now no condemnation. I am accepted and loved in Christ.

If I see myself trapped in human form, I will be worried sick to death, believing I must fix everything wrong around me. But if I see myself as in God's image, I walk by faith with thanksgiving no matter the circumstances because I know He holds tomorrow.

If I see myself trapped in human form, I tend to be angry - at who knows what! But if I see myself as in God's image, I can be forgiving and non-controlling because I know God is in control, and my anger is a waste of energy.

If I see myself trapped in human form, I fear tomorrow. But if I see myself as in God's image, I am restful and assured of His presence every day.

If I see myself trapped in human form, I continually grieve over the past. But if I see myself as in God's image, I leave the past behind and look forward with hope.

If I see myself trapped in human form, I am anxious and jumpy at every noise or newscast. But if I see myself as in God's image, I entrust my times to His hands, knowing His love continually surrounds and protects me.

You see, perspective is so crucial.  It colors every decision and creates the attitude by which we live. So maybe it is time we laid fresh eyes on 2022!

Let's read that quote again. "We define our humanity as a cage from which we cannot escape. Jesus defines it as the image of the invisible God."

I don't know about you, but I would much rather place my hope for 2022 in a God who loves me, has a purpose for me, accepts me, and sees me as His child. When I allow my mind to wallow in humanistic thought, I feel trapped, the light grows dim, and I begin to lose heart. But when the light of the glorious gospel shines, I see things with fresh eyes. 

How about you?

Wanna read more? Check out my blog Beside the Well and my other books at www.gailgritts.com