Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Wednesday & Thursday

Sorry about Wednesday's Devotional... I worked Tuesday night and fell asleep before I was able to post this... Almost slept the day away...
Do you have peace in the decisions you’re making?
 “ And let peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule ( act as umpire continually) in your hearts ( deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds in that peaceful state)....” — Colossians 3:15 (AMP)

                  Batter up! It’s that season again, when baseball enthusiasts grab their padded mitts and start swinging their bats. Colorful uniforms with team emblems cover the baseball fields identifying each fan’s favorite team.
                  A man with a peculiar uniform stands behind the batter’s mound. The cage on his face and the turtle-like shell on his chest identify him as the umpire. All ears are attentive, as his mighty voice shout’s, “Strike!, Ball!, Safe!” His call renders screams of victory, or the hiss of defeat from the fanatical crowd.  But, regardless of the shouts from disgruntled fans, the umpire has the final say. Without his wise discernment the score might not be settled, and foul play may abound.
                 Every sport has an umpire of some sort. He’s the one who settles the score between the two teams. Although not everyone is happy with his call, you might say, he is like the peace keeper of the game. Without a final decision, the game could not go on.
                 Every day we are struggling to make decisions. Big or small each decision we make could be critical to our well-being. A wrong move could destroy us. Like the other games of life, we need an umpire. Someone who can help us settle the score of our personal decisions.
              God tells us that peace should be the umpire of our souls, settling with finality decisions that trouble our minds.
             Have you ever lacked peace about a decision and gone ahead and done it anyway? I have.
 I once signed a loan contract I didn’t have peace about. I found out months later that I wasn’t told all the terms. I had to suffer the consequences because I didn’t follow my gut peace not to do it.
             That inner peace is the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit directing us. Following peace will lead us to blessing. I think God may have given us umpires for our favorite games as an example to let peace be our umpire in the game of life.  
Annettee Budzban is a newspaper religion columnist, freelance writer and author. She has been published in Christian magazines such as guideposts Angels on Earth, Stewardship, Standard, and many more. Her writings have also been many popular anthologies such as a Cup of Comfort, Chicken Soup,God's Way books and others. Her books when Heaven Whispers and Inspirations to Restore Your Soul can be ordered on -line or in any bookstore. Her e-mail is        From April, 2007

Kid's Daily Smile:
Why was the Math Book unhappy?

Because it had too many problems!
- submitted by Owen
In The News:
Christians in Eritrea Punished for Their Faith
LOS ANGELES (Morning Star News) – Eritrean authorities are punishing 39 high school students for their Christian faith, excluding them from a graduation ceremony and subjecting them to beatings and hard labor, according to Christian support organization Open Doors.
After completing a four-month military training required in Eritrea, the students, including 11 girls, have been arrested for their “Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ,” sources told Open Doors.
“The youths are now enduring beating, forced hard labor and insufficient food and water” at the SAWA military training center, the organization reported in a press statement. “Sources said authorities are also threatening the students with long imprisonment and exclusion from university should they ‘fail to renounce Christ.’”
After completing school, all Eritreans are required to participate in national service. The 39 students were selected out from 17,000 students of the 26th national service intake who graduated on July 13, according to Open Doors. Graduating students then continue to Senior Secondary School to complete grade 12.
Since 2002, worship outside the government-sanctioned Sunni Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea has been forbidden, with Protestant worship a criminal offense. In 2005, authorities also began persecuting the EOC, particularly those in the church’s renewal movement.
The government began a widespread crackdown on Christians outside the state-approved churches early this year, according to Open Doors, detaining them in harsh conditions. Christians make up 47 percent of Eritrea’s population of 5.2 million, and Muslims 50 percent, according to Operation World.
The Marxist-leaning architect of repression of religion and free speech in Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki, has been in power since Eritrea’s liberation from Ethiopia in 1991; the National Assembly elected him as president 1993.
After 12 Years, Turkey Closes Door on American Church Volunteer
After 12 years serving a church in Diyarbakir, Turkey, voluntarily and peacefully, Jerry Mattix suddenly is on the country's blacklist, World Watch Monitor reports. In the past two years, the Mattix family and at least six other foreign-born families have either been deported from Turkey or denied renewals of their residency permits. "Sadly, this is not just a personal vendetta on the part of the government," Mattix said. "Several other Christian workers in our region and connected to our church have been forced to leave in the last year." Diyarbakir is near the epicenter of ongoing clashes between Turkish military and Kurdish rebels, and not far from Turkey's border with Syria, over which thousands of Syrian refugees have fled, overwhelming local authorities. These issues have made the region politically sensitive for Turkey's ruling AK Party, which is trying to marry democratic principles with modern Islam. For their part, churches in southeastern Turkey say they have been deprived of their right to obtain help and support from foreigners. "There is a discomfort with foreign Christians here, and slowly they will clean them out," said Ahmet Guvener, pastor of the Diyarbakir Protestant Church, where Mattix had been a volunteer. "In the end the churches in the east will become weak and scattered, because there are no mature Christian workers among us."
Somali Extremists Step Up Attack
Somali and international leaders condemned a July 27 suicide attack at a compound housing Turkish embassy staff in Mogadishu that killed a Turkish guard and a Somali bystander while wounding others, Open Doors USA reports. The Somali rebel group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in which a car laden with explosives crashed into the gates of the Turkish residence. Three al Shabaab militants, including the car bomber, were also killed. Just prior to the attack, al Shabaab promised in a series of Twitter messages to step up what they called their "Ramadan Offensive" in the second half of the Muslim month of fasting that ends Aug. 7. "Ramadan is a month of Jihad and sacrifice," one message said. "It's time for observing the most righteous deeds & offering gratitude to Allah for His blessings. And what better way to observe Ramadan and offer gratitude to Allah than striking the necks of the invaders and destroying their might!" The group said in the first half of Ramadan its fighters carried out over 100 attacks, mostly in and around the capital Mogadishu. These allegedly included 57 explosions and grenade attacks, 41 direct confrontations and ambushes, nine targeted assassinations and a suicide attack against an African Union Mission in Somalia convoy in Mogadishu on July 12 in which they claim to have wounded American intelligence officials. "Please remember to pray for the handful of secret Christians in Somalia," said an Open Doors worker. "Although al Shabaab threatens the society in general, these secret Christians are at particular risk.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy Tuesday

Nagging causes damage in your relationships                                      
           “...a nagging wife annoys like a constant dripping.” — Proverbs 19:13 (NLT)

           I got up at the usual time. My husband Jeff, had gotten out of bed bright and early that day.
           My first stop was the kitchen. I noticed a bottle of dish soap on the countertop. The different color and shape of the bottle signaled to me that it wasn’t my usual brand. As I turned on the faucet, my eyes stayed glued to the bottle as I read the label. When I realized the soap contained an added fragrance, it was taboo as far as I was concerned. I was afraid I might be sensitive to the ingredient.
          Jeff must have placed it there earlier that morning to use with something he was doing. I found myself getting agitated over the thought of this container of soap. Just at that time Jeff walked in the back door and entered the kitchen.
         “Would you please get rid of this soap!” I blurted out of my mouth with a snap.
            Jeff quickly grabbed the soap and removed it from where I was standing. Re- entering the room he looked at me and said, “Good morning!”
            Being relieved, I smiled and graciously responded, “Good morning,” in return.
            He looked at me with a grin and said, “No, I mean, good morning should have been your first response to me.” Even though he was only joking, I knew he was right. I was so concerned about the soap, I hadn’t considered his feelings at all.
            I knew that Jeff was sensitive to my concern and didn’t mind removing the soap. I didn’t have to nag at him. I apologized, and we both laughed about it.
            As I sat eating my breakfast, I pondered over the Biblical Proverb of the nagging wife. When we nag, it’s like the constant dripping of a water faucet. As the water drips through the faucet, given enough  time it corrodes away a spot in the sink’s porcelain enamel, and causes great damage or a permanent stain.
             Although nagging isn’t part of my usual nature, I can see how allowing this ungodly behavior to get out of  control at a spouse, co-worker, or other, could wreak havoc and leave lasting damage in even the best of relationships.
         Learning to be conscious to stop the habit of nagging can help us live our lives to the fullest as we nurture our relationships. 
Annettee Budzban is a newspaper religion columnist, and author. Her articles and devotions have also been in many publications such as Guideposts Angels on Earth, Insight, Standard, Family Circle,Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul Daily Inspirations and more. He latest book Inspirations to Restore Your Soul can be ordered through bookstores. You can e-mail her at

Daily Smile:
Three absent minded writers were busy discussing a writing project on the platform, while waiting for the train. The announcement was made, and the train finally arrived. There was complete panic among eagerly waiting passengers as the train made its way to the platform. Passengers rushed inside the train, and the train left. However, one of the writers was not able to catch the train in the confusion.

A passerby who saw all this came up to the writer and told him not to worry and catch the next available train. The writer replied, “I am not worried for myself, but the real problem is that I was the one who was suppose to catch the train, and the two of them who went on the train, actually came to see me off”.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Monday

I Don’t Understand, But I’ll Obey

Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.

“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

 I read an interesting story about Stephen Grellet, a pioneer evangelist to the lumbermen in the Rocky Mountains. He felt the Spirit of God leading him to a particular lumber camp to preach. When he got there, the place was absolutely deserted. He said, “Lord, I don’t understand, but I'm going to be obedient.” So he opened his Bible without a soul in sight and preached a full-length message. Then he pled for people to come to Christ. He said, “Lord, I don’t know what that was all about but Lord, I was obedient.” Years later, a man walked up to him in England and said, “I was the foreman at a lumber camp. I had come back to the camp to get an ax, and I heard you preaching. I stood behind a pile of lumber and listened. As you preached, my heart was strangely warmed, and I repented of my sin and gave my heart to Jesus Christ. I later witnessed to four other men. Now, all five of us are missionaries preaching around the world.”

How important it is that we obey completely in small things! Naaman was asked to dip seven times in the river Jordan. He hesitated. But in 2 Kings 5:13 his servants asked him, “… if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?”

Do you know why many of us are not obeying God more than we are? Because we're not hearing what God is saying. We're not spending time listening to God. That's the importance of a quiet time, that's the importance of getting somewhere alone with God in a nook this book and reading and listening.

Daily Smile:
Computers are like air conditioners. They work fine until you start opening windows.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy Sunday

The Guilt Removed
 Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.
“To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.” Daniel 9:9

Isn’t it wonderful that to God belong mercies and forgiveness? You see, just as Daniel prayed, the basis of our prayer is the greatness and the mercy of God. The basis of Daniel’s prayer was the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

It is impossible to see the greatness of God and the mercies of God and not pray with confidence.

We need to pray, “God, cleanse us, restore us, revive us, renew us, refresh us. We need revival in America. Remove our guilt.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Happy Saturday

by Gary Wilkerson

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). 
Jesus is speaking to the Laodicean church — the church that has become famous worldwide. Laodicean is even a word in the dictionary, meaning lukewarm or indifferent. Lukewarm is right in the middle with cold on one side and hot on the other. Jesus does not say He would like for us to be hot, lukewarm or cold. No, He says He would rather we be cold or hot rather than lukewarm.

When Jesus speaks of our being hot He is talking about being full of zeal, full of passion, with a heart that is on fire for God. He is talking about our having something in us that stirs us to action. That is why He says, “I know your works.” He doesn’t say, “I know your thoughts — I know your
emotions.” He says, “I know your works,” because when you look at someone’s works you have a revelation of that person’s heart. 

Many of us don’t realize how far lukewarmness is from the heart of God. This state is despicable to Jesus because it speaks of someone who is claiming to be one of His, people who take on the name of Jesus and quote Scripture but then
behave like the world.

A lukewarm person is somebody who claims to be a Christian but does the same things as someone who is totally cold: still getting drunk, still sleeping around, still taking God’s name in van, still cheating, still lying — and still calling himself a Christian. This person becomes a ruinous testimony for Christ.

Jesus prefers an honest testimony that says, “I’m not saved and I’m living like it,” rather than, “I claim to be saved but I’m not living like it.” Jesus goes on to say to the lukewarm, “I know your works!”

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Friday

by Jilly Lyon Taylor
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
John 15:1-2 NIV

Outside our house we have a very old rose bush that was there when we moved in nearly 30 years ago. In its earlier life it had not been well pruned and it had become more and more straggly. I was reluctant to prune it too hard in view of its age, as I thought I might destroy it. However, one branch was so long and was leaning over so far that the weight of it was threatening to uproot the whole plant. I therefore decided it was time for drastic action! I cut it back almost to the ground and was greatly surprised to find that following this it produced vigorous new growth and is now much stronger and healthier than before.

Jesus speaks about the need for pruning in John 15, where He tells us that He is the true vine. Likening His Father to the gardener or vinedresser, He tells us that God will cut off every branch in Him that bears no fruit. We can understand the need for dead and rotten wood to be cut out of a plant to prevent decay and disease spreading. In a similar way, God wants to remove from our lives all the ‘dead works’ and rotten parts.

More surprising, however, is the fact that Jesus says He will also prune the branches that do bear fruit. When the grapes have been harvested on a vine, the farmer will cut off all the trailing branches, going right back to the main trunk. This is in order to produce new strong growth which will bear the following season’s grapes. If left without pruning, the branches will lose strength and will not be as fruitful. In our lives, the Father wants to prune back even those parts that have been fruitful, to prepare us for an even more fruitful season to come.

The process of pruning is not always pleasant! But James tells us to: ‘Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance’ (James 1:2-3). Peter also speaks of trials coming ‘so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Peter 1:7). It is often through trials and difficulties that we are refined, tested and pruned, and this makes us even more fruitful for the Kingdom.

So be encouraged if you are undergoing a pruning process today. It may be the Divine Gardener at work preparing you for a season of even greater fruitfulness!

Prayer: Father, thank You that You know exactly what is needed in my life to make me more fruitful for You. Please continue to remove from me all those things that are harmful to my growth in You, and continue Your work of pruning so that I can bear good fruit for Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Happy Thursday

Thinking of Everything 
by Pastor Bill

Scripture: Luke 14:28-30 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it- lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish'"? NKJV

Throughout the Bible we see that Jesus continually gets the credit as the creator of everything. And in so doing HE added incredibly unique talents into everything accomplished.

Examples: In Africa specific birds were created to clean ticks off specific animals. In Australia the Red Kangaroo mother intricately grooms her off spring --- joey.

And ants the world over can count!

When a scout ant finds an item of food too big to carry, that is especially good, the scout will return to the nest for help. Scientists have discovered that ants apparently size up the task ahead so that they can return with just enough help.

The story is told of a scientist who set out to prove that ants can count. He cut a dead grasshopper into three pieces. The second piece was twice as big as the first, and the third was twice as big the second. He then left the pieces in different locations where ants would find them. He watched as each was discovered by a scout. The scout ant inspected the project and immediately returned to the nest for help.

In each case, when the scout returned with help, it was exactly what was needed. The scientist watched and meticulously counted the number of ants working on each piece of grasshopper.

The smallest piece had 28 ants and the piece that was twice its size had 44 ants diligently working on it. Almost twice as many as the smallest piece. And how many ants do you think worked on the third piece of the grasshopper. This piece of grasshopper was twice the size of the second? There were 89 ants diligently working on the largest piece of grasshopper.

All three pieces made their way back to the nest without any extra help!

The ants were carrying out the Biblical principal: "count the cost of the project before you begin it." Just as they were designed.

Prayer: Father thank you that when the world and everything in it were made --- there were no coincidences --- everything necessary for life was provided, by Jesus, at all levels. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Happy Wednesday

Progress or Procrastination?
by Lisa Allen
"If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done!" Ecclesiastes 11:4 (LB)
Unhealthy habits had crept their way into my life. At first it was only occasionally, but then it became easier to stay home rather than head to the gym. I turned a blind eye to how much sugar I was eating. And dinner from a drive-through became more convenient when I was in a rush.
After a few months in this downward spiral, I knew it was time to reintroduce healthy habits. But then the excuses started: I know I should work out, but this just isn't a good time for me ... I have two trips coming up and then there's that birthday dinner for my friend this weekend. And everyone knows that Mondays are the best day to start a good habit!
This pattern of thinking gives me permission to eat unhealthy foods and put off exercise. Somehow I justify that I will ultimately be more successful if all the conditions are perfect for me to improve my health. Perhaps it's my selfish nature that screams, "I want what I want when I want it." The truth is, if I know I should take steps toward healthier choices, then my response should simply be to ask myself, "What can I do today?" and then do it. I don't have to have a plan for a month or even a week ... only today.
As I've observed this pattern of procrastination within myself, I find when faced with a desire and necessity to make a change for the better, sometimes I wait until I can do it perfectly before I'm willing to begin. Scripture tells us though "If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done!" (Ecclesiastes 11:4).
I don't know about you, but I struggle with feeling that perfection is unreachable, so I push my goals to the back burner.
We wait to start consistent quiet times until we feel like getting up earlier. We wait to clean our house until there is a convenient weekend. We wait to join a small group until our schedules open up. We wait to begin a healthier lifestyle until the holidays are over.
Taking that first step is the hardest and yet most important step. Even a baby step toward a goal is better than staying in place. Aiming for progress rather than perfection can be quite freeing. So, I can't run a marathon. But I can lace up my sneakers and go for a walk. And while my home isn't in spotless, I can wipe down the counters and put away the piles of laundry around my living room. Yes, there are still dishes in the sink, but I have to start somewhere, right?
God is teaching me that I can make progress in the midst of less-than-perfect circumstances. While I still want to do things with excellence, a friend once told me I need to be willing to "take a B instead of an A+" on some things in life, and that helps bring perspective when excuses start to rise up. Plus, I'm learning to overcome my tendency for excuses by telling myself imperfect action is better than perfect procrastination.
There may never be a perfect time to get organized, eat less sugar, and workout more. However, we have to begin somewhere. The perfect place to start is where we are today.
Father, You know me so well, and I confess to You I've been avoiding obedience by waiting for things to be easier, better and more convenient. I recognize this as disobedience and ask You to forgive me. Give me the strength to focus today on this area of obedience. Let me know that You are providing all I need to take this step today and tomorrow, as I continue this journey with You. Amen.

In The News:

Christian Fined for Refusing to Photograph Same-Sex Wedding

When Christian photographers are asked to work same-sex weddings, do they have the right to refuse? Surprisingly, 85 percent of Americans say they do. If only their sentiments were the law.

Elaine Huguenin was asked to photograph a same-sex ceremony in New Mexico. She refused, citing her Christian beliefs. She was fined $7,000 by the state Human Rights Commission, which claimed that she was guilty of discrimination for sexual orientation. The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.

In similar news, T-shirt maker Hands On Originals was asked by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington, Kentucky to print shirts for their group. They politely declined, and gave the group referrals to other T-shirt printers and sought quotes for them. However, they were sued by the group and were found in violation of the city's fairness ordinance.

Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics is warning its members against "heterosexism," defined as "the social expectation that heterosexuality is the expected norm." Doctors are encouraged to post a "rainbow" decal on an office door or bulletin board, and display brochures with pictures of "both same- and opposite-gender couples." They are not to ask a boy about his girlfriend, but to ask about his "partner" instead.

Do you feel like you're swimming more against the cultural current with every passing day? How can we make a positive difference for the Kingdom? I just finished Donald Keough's brilliant The Ten Commandments for Business Failure. Keough, the former president of the Coca-Cola Company, tells executives what to do if they want to fail. His "commandments" apply just as fully to Christians who seek to change their culture.
Here's his list:
  1. Quit taking risks
  2. Be inflexible
  3. Isolate yourself
  4. Assume infallibility
  5. Play the game close to the foul line (He's talking about moral integrity.)
  6. Don't take time to think
  7. Put all your faith in experts and outside consultants
  8. Love your bureaucracy
  9. Send mixed messages
  10. Be afraid of the future
And he adds #11: Lose your passion for work — for life.
Here's how I would rephrase his commandments for Christians who don't want to change their culture:
  1. Stop trusting God
  2. Refuse to try new approaches
  3. Withdraw from the non-Christian world
  4. Trust in yourself more than in God
  5. Ignore personal character
  6. Don't take time to pray and reflect
  7. Put your faith in people rather than the Lord
  8. Trust the church rather than the Spirit
  9. Lose your focus on the gospel
  10. Be afraid of change
  11. Lose your passion for Jesus
Which of these commandments is tempting you today?
Keough closes with this wonderful statement from St. Augustine: "Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be." Are both alive in you?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy Tuesday

Are You Sitting on the Fence?
There was a large group of people gathered. On one side of the group stood a man, Jesus. On the other side stood another, satan. Separating them was a fence running through the group. The scene set, both Jesus and satan began calling to people in the group. One by one, each having made up his or her own mind, went to either Jesus or satan. This kept going for a time. Soon enough, Jesus had gathered around him a group of people from the larger crowd, as did satan.
One man joined neither group. He climbed the fence that was there and sat on it. Jesus and his people left and disappeared, and so too did satan and his people. The man on the fence sat alone. As this man sat, satan came back, looking for something which he appeared to have lost. The man said, "Have you lost something?" satan looked straight at him and replied, "No, there you are. Come with me." The man said, "But I sat on the fence. I chose neither you nor him." satan said, "That's okay; I own the fence."
"Whoever is not with me is against me." - Jesus in Matthew 12:30

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy Monday

Where Do You Look?
A speed boat set out from one region of the country to another. The sea was turbulent, the storm raging. Those on board the boat were afraid, but only the captain was calm. One man being a Christian wondered why, in the midst of all the turbulence, the captain was calm so he went ahead and asked him. “We are all troubled, but you are calm, why is this?”

The captain answered “My destination is the port we are going, not the troubled sea”. That was what he was looking forward to.
What are you looking at? Are you looking up to Jesus or at the storms of life? Are you looking forward to your prize in heaven or looking at the everyday turbulence of life?
Turn Your Eyes Upon JESUS
  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!
    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happy Sunday

The Best Worst Thing
By Lysa TerKeurst
"He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

I failed at being a wedding planner.

No one wants a planner who gets so undone by the neurotic mother-of-the-bride that she throws up in the parking lot right beside the guest sidewalk.

Really, nothing says, "Welcome to my wedding" quite like that.

I failed at being a kitchen gadget saleswoman.

No one wants to see the tip of a thumb sliced off into the veggie pizza at the exact moment I was promising how safe this gadget is.


I failed at being a cafeteria lady at a private school.
My assistant decided her arms were so dry she needed to coat herself with our spray butter. When we took the trash out later that day, we both got attacked by bees and forgot about the pizza in the oven.

Kids don't take kindly to burnt pizza.

I failed at being a receptionist
It's never a good idea to just succumb to those sleepy afternoon feelings and lay your head down on the desk.
Bosses don't like workers who snore. Even if they are pregnant.

Yes, I failed at a lot during those years where I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. At the time each of these things felt like the worst that could have happened. Now, I think they were the best worst things.

Had these things been successful, I would have never discovered the joy of being in the ministry I'm in now.
I see this same theme woven throughout many stories in the Bible.

In Matthew 8:23-24 we find Jesus getting into a boat with His disciples. "Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat." Worst thing.

But in verse 26 Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and waves and things turned completely calm. The disciples were amazed. Best worst thing.

In Acts 5:18 we find the apostles being arrested and thrown in jail. Worst thing.

But in Acts 5:19 we find an angel of the Lord opening the doors of the jail and bringing them out. Later we find them with so much confidence they boldly proclaim, "We must obey God rather than men!" (v. 29b) Best worst thing.

I don't understand why we have to go through cruddy stuff. And I certainly know there are many worse things to go through then what I've mentioned here.

We live in a broken world full of broken people. But isn't it comforting to know God isn't ever broken? He isn't ever caught off guard, taken by surprise, or shocked by what happens next.

He can take our worst and add His best. We just have to make the choice to stay with Him and keep following Him through it all.

Dear Lord, I know You are capable of taking my worst and turning it into Your best. Show me this truth anew today. Refresh my spirit. I want to follow You through it all. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Saturday

Someone to Lean On
By Wendy Pope
"When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset." Exodus 17:12 (NIV)

Someone very dear to me is in the fight of her life ... she's wrestling with her belief in God and searching to know with certainty that Scripture is true. She's fighting for her faith. Watching from the sidelines is difficult to endure for me. But the battle is one that only she can combat.
I love her so much and want to jump in the ring with my fighting gloves and slay the enemy. As one who came out victorious from the same struggle of my own, I long to bottle the knowledge I learned and give it to her. Handing my wisdom and faith to her would surely spare her the agony associated with a fight for faith in the Lord.

Watching the conflict as a bystander is arduous. But while I watch, I pray. And through prayer I am reminded of two men in the Bible who stood by their friend Moses in battle.

Moses sent Joshua into battle to fight an army of their enemies. While Joshua and the men waged war, Moses stood on top of the mountain holding his staff over the valley. Joshua and his men were victorious as long as Moses held the staff up. When Moses lowered the staff, their enemies gained on them.

Moses' friends, Aaron and Hur, followed him up the mountain. They saw the pressure and agony Moses experienced as he held the staff. With compassion, these men pushed a large rock under Moses for him to rest upon. Then, in a selfless act of love and friendship, they each held up one of Moses' arms as he held the staff high.

They could not hold the staff for Moses but they could stand with him through the long battle.
They filled in the gap created by Moses' weakness with the strength of their faith.

This story challenged me to change my position from a bystander to that of a gap-stander. A bystander is an onlooker who watches, but does not to get involved.

A gap-stander has empathy and takes action, using the strength of her faith to help the fighter stand until victory comes. A gap-stander is someone the one in battle can lean on.

Are you watching someone you care about fight for faith, whether in God, for healing, restoration of a marriage, or something else? Do you feel helpless?

We cannot give our faith to our loved ones or fight for them, but we can stand with them and support them as they fight to have their own faith.

The job of the gap-stander isn't easy, but it is a place of honor. Gap-standers are committed to encouragement, prayer, and spiritual and practical support. As we watch the battle rage, we also share in and observe God's great work and their victory. Who can you stand in the gap for today?

Dear Lord, someone I love is fighting and is tired. Will You show me how I can help? I choose to change positions from a bystander to a gap-stander. Help me have patience and be compassionate as I stand in the gap. I praise You for the victory that awaits for my loved one. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Happy Friday

Hide and Seek
By Micca Campbell
"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)

During my childhood, one of my most memorable times was during the long, hot days of summer. Each evening, the neighborhood kids and I went outside after dinner for one last game. At dusk, we would meet at the dead-end street to play "Hide and Seek."

This was a very serious game. The goal was to hide from your seeker until it was safe to run for home base without being seen and tagged out. That is why we played under the cover of twilight. The darkness kept you concealed as you dashed from object to object until you finally made it to home base - unseen and untagged by the pursuer.

I especially loved the memories of when I was young enough to still enjoy the game, but old enough to know how to keep from being found.

It was my dad who first introduced me to Hide and Seek. Although, my father and I played the game with different rules.
When Dad hid, he would leave clues on purpose so I could find him. Sometimes, I would spy his wiggling toes sticking out from under the living room curtains. Others times, I noticed a lampshade sitting atop a very large stand in the shape of his body. Or I'd hear noises coming from behind the couch.

For my dad and me, the game was not about staying hidden. It was about developing our relationship.

Our reunion brought joy and laughter. Mostly, it taught me that whenever I needed my dad, he could always be found.
The same is true with our heavenly Father. He is not playing a game of chance - that we may or may not find Him. No. God wants to be found, and He leaves clues about His presence everywhere we look.

Today's key verse assures us that we will find God if we seek Him with our heart and soul. "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deut. 4:29)

When do we seek Him? God's Word tells us to seek Him while He can be found. We should seek God immediately.
How do we seek Him? With diligence, through prayer, in His Word, and with our whole hearts.

He will be found in the beauty of creation and within the pages of His Word. As we seek God, we will discover His will, His plans, and His blessings in new found strength as we face adversity, and in the comfort of His presence as we communicate with Him in prayer.

God isn't playing Hide and Seek with us. He longs to be found by those who earnestly seek Him. The Lord is ready and waiting to reveal Himself to you in such wonderful ways that it will leave you longing for more. It's an adventure you don't want to miss. Ready, set, seek!

Dear Lord, I long to see You in my daily life. Reveal Yourself to me as I seek in times of sorrow and in times of joy. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Thursday

Don't Kick the Anthill
Lysa TerKeurst
"The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception." Proverbs 14:8 (NIV)
I stood at the dirt mound watching ants. They were busy. I was not.
The afternoon had been slow for me. Several of my friends had been invited to the community pool. Another friend was at camp for the week. Even my last resort, the pigtailed aggravation that lived in the apartment below, was busy. "She's napping," her mom had informed me.
I walked away thinking, She's six years old. Only two years younger than me and she still takes naps? That's the awfullest thing a mom could do to her child. And this is the awfullest afternoon ever.
I sat on the swing of the little playground behind our apartment complex. I scuffed the toes of my red sneakers, making lines in the dirt as I moved slowly back and forth. If a child could have died from boredom, I felt quite terminal at that moment.
Then I spotted the anthill.
I walked over and stood there. Just about the time I was thinking about how lucky all those ants were to have so many friends, I heard a scratchy little voice call out to me.
"I bet you won't stick your foot through that anthill." Pigtail girl had woken up from her afternoon slumber. And for heaven's sake I would not, could not, be shamed by a girl who still took naps.
I knew in my mind I shouldn't kick the anthill. I knew in my heart I shouldn't kick the anthill. And I knew deep down in my soul I shouldn't kick the anthill. Every part of me knew I should walk away from the anthill.
But some silly part of my mouth betrayed me.
"Yes I will!" I declared as I kicked my foot into the middle of ant Hades.
It didn't take long to feel as if someone had lit 1,000 needles on fire and stabbed me mercilessly.
Since that day I haven't kicked an anthill. At least not in the literal sense.
But I have gotten myself into situations where I invited trouble into my life that just didn't need to be there. Especially in the area of saying yes to something I absolutely should say no to.
I will know in my mind I should say no. I will know in my heart I should say no. I will know deep down in my soul I should say no.
But then my mouth will betray me, "Yes, of course I will do that."
And then?
The sting of the three D's comes ...
Dread — As I write yet another thing on my schedule, I feel the weight of overload.
Disappointment — In order to make this happen, I will disappoint someone.
Drama — Dread and disappointment will ratchet my emotions to a tipping point. A tipping point that's not healthy for me or those with whom I do life.
Here's what I'm trying to preach to myself: Just because I can do something doesn't mean I should do it.
I kicked the anthill that day for three reasons ... I thought it proved I was something. I thought it would impress nap girl. And I didn't think through the cost beforehand.
Proverbs 14:8 says, "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways." As a little girl on the playground, I was neither wise nor prudent. Thankfully I know now that God's wisdom is readily available.
I've learned that if I pause before making an impulsive choice, and ask God what to do, He will answer. In fact, He's given me some questions to ask myself that help me determine whether something is an assignment from Him or an anthill that will get me into trouble.
Before saying yes to one more thing on my schedule, I ask myself:
Am I trying to prove something?
Am I trying to impress someone?
Have I thought through the cost of saying yes?
It's not bad to say yes to opportunities. But we really should give thought to our ways and consider whether this is an assignment or an anthill.
Take the assignment if it's yours. But don't kick the anthills.
Dear Lord, I'm asking for Your guidance as I discern assignments from anthills. Thank You for Your direction. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Wednesday

What Were You Thinking?
Samantha Evilsizer
"Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven't his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?" 1 Chronicles 19:3b (NIV)
A sepia tint covers the photograph of her sunscreen-lathered face at the beach. This same coloring alters the picture he took of the dinner he made last night, and discolors their new puppy in the snapshot of him snoozing at the foot of the bed.
Everywhere I look—Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr—photographs are edited with a yellowish-brown filter to create a vintage look. I appreciate the artistry of it, but what happened to the bright vivid colors? Why does faded yellow get to layer itself over the clear blue eyes of a sweet child, making her appear like someone she's not? Or discolor the true pinks and oranges of a fabulous sunset, giving it a different appearance than it truly has?
I've used the sepia filter when editing photographs. But I'm ready to see things as they really are. Not just with photographs, but in real life.
For far too long I've colored things based on my fancies, moods or ideas, just like the men in 1 Chronicles 19 did. You see, King David, being kind, sent out a group of his men to console another king whose father had just died. But when the king's men saw David's group approaching, they assumed the worst.
In verse 3 we get a snapshot of their conversation with their king: "Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven't his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?" (1 Chronicles 19:3b NIV).
Their suspicion and assumptions about David's intentions led them to treat David's men poorly, which started a war between the two countries ... all because these soldiers colored David in an unfair and incorrect light.
If I'm honest, I can do this quite easily myself.
When my husband says he prefers broccoli to carrots, I've read between the lines and inferred he means I can't cook yummy carrots. I'm no Julia Child, so this perceived jab adds to my insecurity. My assumptions lead my emotions, and before I know it, I've cooked up an internal battle between fact and fiction. Rather than suspecting my husband's words contain a hidden meaning, I'm learning to take them at face value.
It can happen beyond our home too. When we hear of a friend's party—that we aren't invited to—it can be easy to conclude they don't really like us. We pull away from our friend, causing a rift. It may be tempting to talk about the suspected snub with other friends who weren't invited either, causing more division. But the truth is, an intimate dinner party is just that, intimate: small and reserved for a few. Instead of coloring the lack of an invitation with malicious intent, it'd be best to step back and see the bigger picture of a smaller gathering.
Layering life with thoughts that discolor other's true intentions is easy to do.
But only God knows what a person is thinking. If we want to know, we have to ask for clarity and set aside the thoughts our imaginations conjure up (2 Corinthians 10:5). Instead of being easily offended, we can overlook another's actions and offer a way to create harmony (Proverbs 19:11).
Negative assumptions almost always lead to war: either with others, or within ourselves. Let's commit to believing the best, before assuming the worst. And see through a different filter: the truth of God's Word. That's true blue (not yellow!).
Dear Lord, please help me not infer more than what is said. And if I have questions, please give me the words to ask for clarity. So in all things, You will be lifted high. In Jesus' Name, Amen.