Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy Friday

Thought for Today

"Someone who sees grace as permission to sin has missed grace entirely. Mercy understood is holiness desired." - Max Lucado

First Words - First Light
Rev. Kerry S. Doyal [Edited]

How fitting. God's first recorded words in the Holy Scriptures are: "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). As we embark on a New Year, we do well to turn to the light, let our light shine, walk in the light and worship Him who is the light.

Let us, in concerted effort with and in subordination to God, work to dispel darkness and disperse light. God saw & still sees light as good. Fellowship with Him - who is the light - separates us from darkness. On this new day of a new creation of a new year, let us purpose to be people of light.

Genesis 1:3-5 (NIV): "And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day."

Ephesians 5:8 (NIV): "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

See John 1:1-10; Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:8-14; Matthew 5:13-16; 1 John 1:4-10

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Thursday

Unmixing Our Motives

Amy Carroll
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5 (NIV 1984)
I'll never forget when mixed motives almost killed my true calling. Soon after accepting a leadership position in the women's ministry of my church, a friend on the team came up to me. "Oh! We forgot to tell you," she said with a grin. "You're in charge of the annual women's conference."
Despite the surprise, I loved every minute of organizing the event. But as I interacted with our guest speaker, envy began to wind itself around my heart. If it could have spoken aloud, it would have said, "I want THAT!"
I wanted her platform.
I wanted her eloquence.
I wanted her audience.
I wanted her cute outfit.
Fortunately, I recognized these "wants" as signs of covetousness rather than signs of my calling. I knew God had called me to be the women's ministry director during that season—not to speak. And each time I desired what that speaker had, it took my focus off what God had for me.
So I asked God to kill the weed of envy that was choking the life from my calling to lead women. I asked Him to purify my motives and steer my heart to the women He had called me to serve.
It's so easy for wrong motives to creep in to our hearts. You might not want to be a speaker, but maybe you're the mom who dresses her children to impress others. Or maybe you're the employee who takes charge of the room to show your boss your readiness for the next step up.
There's nothing wrong with cute children or promotions, but so many times our motives trip us up. Instead of being pure, our motives get mixed with other things that sully the outcome—emotionalism, pride, and strong personal preferences are just a few.
Several years after my prayer to remove my "speaker envy," God started whispering to me about speaking as I prayed and read the Word. My first reaction was to think, "There's that old, nasty envy again. God, purify my heart!"
But this time was different. As I unpacked my motives, I realized God had really changed my heart. He'd refined my motives to just one, and that was to obey Him.
Philippians 2:5 states our ideal position: "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus" (NIV 1984). Our one motive should be to follow Him and become more like Him. That's the motive that should supersede and reign over any others. How do we practically live that out?
I think the clue is in the following verses. "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:6-7, NIV 1984).
Our focus has to be on becoming nothing. Nothing is not our status or worth. We are always holy and dearly loved children of the King.
Nothing is to be our chosen position as a servant.
How does this look in everyday life? Jesus is our perfect example. He is everything: the Lord of lords and the King of kings. He is so incredibly powerful and important that Colossians 1:16 says "all things were created by him and for him" (NIV 1984). Despite His exalted position, Jesus showed the purity of His motives toward us by giving up all He had.
As I've thought about how to imitate Jesus in my motives, I ask myself two questions when making choices:
• Does this put me or others first?
• Is this a choice to be more or to be nothing?
These two questions expose any twisted motives and bring me back to my chosen position of nothing. Day by day, my motives are refined. It's a painful process sometimes, but it's a good process that ultimately produces pure motives with divine outcomes.
Lord God, You are the only One with uncontaminated motives. I confess mine are often mixed with pride, emotion, or personal opinion. Please purify my heart. Forgive me, un-mix my motives, and help me move forward with a pure heart. Amen.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happy Wednesday

ReunitedMicca Campbell
"After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NIV)
When my husband died, a part of me died too. Pain and fear surrounded me during those dark days. I ached inside and felt so lost, empty, and alone. I missed him terribly.
At times, my need for his comforting touch was so strong it would play tricks on my mind. Once, I saw a man who resembled my husband driving a red truck just like Porter's. I followed that truck for miles. As my heart pounded with hope, nothing else mattered more in that moment than catching up to the truck. I was willing to drive to the ends of the earth if necessary.
When I finally caught up with him at a red light and our eyes met, my fantasy ended with a devastating halt. It was as if a cruel joke had been played on me. Weakened by the truth, I pulled into a nearby parking lot, lay across the seat of my car, and wept. As the sun set, the temperature inside the car cooled. Sitting up, I wiped my face, zipped up my coat, and headed for home—without my husband.
There was a great sense of loss, thinking I'd never see Porter again. Maybe you can relate and have experienced grief too? If so, you may be encouraged by this truth: for those who love and know the Lord, parting is only temporary. It's not really goodbye, but see-you-later.
The apostle Paul assured the Thessalonians of this truth.
"The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:16b-17 NIV).
That assurance is for us too. There are three words in Paul's statement that provide hope, comfort, and assurance for the broken-hearted: we, together, and them.
We (people on earth) who are still alive will be caught up together (two parties meeting) with them (those who are in heaven).
These words of reunion indicate that God's children never have to experience permanent separation. That's good news! One day you and I will be reunited with our loved ones who believed in Jesus while on Earth. What a glorious day that will be.
Once I really took hold of this truth, my heart settled. Though I still walked through days of missing my husband, the firm grip sadness had on me lost its strangling hold.
Now, grief no longer burdens my heart. I have hope in God's promise that one day I'll be reunited with Porter, my two grandmothers, and my grandfathers. Holding on to that hope has eased death's sting and filled my heart with anticipation.
Even in grief there is hope. For those who accept the Lord as their Savior, death is not goodbye. It's simply see-you-later.
Dear Lord, thank You for communicating to us words of a glorious reunion one day. Thank You that death is not the end. When my grief runs deep, remind my heart to hope in Your truth. I will see my loved ones again. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Happy Tuesday

LonelyAmy Carroll
"Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up. But suppose the man who falls down doesn't have anyone to help him up. Then feel sorry for him!" Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NIRV)
Lonely. It's not a word I thought I'd ever use to describe myself, but that's how I felt.
For many years after a hard move I felt alone.
Close friends had always been a part of my life, and the absence of intimate friendships left me feeling sore-hearted. I longed to have someone to meet for coffee or help me expend some of my many daily words on the phone. It would have been wonderful to have a woman who would both listen and share.
Over time, I made new friends and re-established older friendships, and most days I feel connected and content. But I still remember what it felt like to be lonely. Recently, I read a study published by the American Sociological Review that cited statistics that showed half of Americans only have two close friends. And one out of four Americans say they don't have any close friends.
Not a single one. That's a lot of lonely hearts.
Why should we care? Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:10 that our friends are our helpers. When times get tough, they can help us navigate through them. "Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up. But suppose the man who falls down doesn't have anyone to help him up. Then feel sorry for him!" (NIRV)
So how can we be part of the solution, to help guarantee no one falls down without having a friend to pick them up?
If you're lonely ...
During my lonely days I told myself this over and over: When you don't have a friend, BE the friend to others that you would like to have.
"Amy," I'd say ...
• "Would you love a friend who takes time to show that she cares by picking up the phone and asking about your day? Then pick up the phone and ask about someone's day."
• "Would you love a friend who keeps confidences and is trustworthy? Then be trustworthy."
• "Would you love a friend who asks you to go the movies or for a walk? Then ask someone to go along when you do these things."
It's easier to stay isolated sometimes than to reach out, especially if you've been hurt or disappointed many times. I know too well. But I want to encourage you to reach out, show love and care about others.
God taught me so many things during my loneliness. I learned to be more dependent on Him. I learned to appreciate the friendship of my family more. I took a hard look at some things that weren't so wonderful about myself and worked to change them.
During lonely times of life, be intentional about connecting to God and others. There's so much to be learned in these times.
If you're not lonely ...
Think about your neighborhood, church, or an organization you are part of. If there are 40 women there, 10 of them feel like they don't have even one friend. Could God be calling you to be that friend?
Look for ways to open your circle of friends to new people. Watch for that woman at church sitting by herself, the co-worker who eats lunch alone, or the neighbor who never seems to be invited.
Reach out today to be part of one less life feeling lonely.
Dear Lord, You are the friend who is closer than a brother or sister. In this time of loneliness and seeming friendlessness, show me how precious friendship with You can be. Please teach me everything I need to learn in this phase of life. Would You also prepare a friend for me and prepare me to be a trusted, valued friend? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Happy Monday

Your Thought for Today
 Man's way leads to a hopeless end! 
God's way leads to an endless hope! 
 "A Pardon Is Not a Pardon Unless it Is Accepted"
(Author Unknown) [Edited]

 There was a young man caught and found guilty of murder many decades ago, and sentenced to death. His mother and father loved him with all their hearts, and they appealed to everyone they met for leniency for their son. Without any results they finally appealed to the Governor of their state for a lesser sentence, but to everyone's surprise the Governor granted this young man a full pardon.
 A pardon is a document that essentially erases a crime, making it as if it never happened. The pardon was sent to the prisoner, with instructions to release him from prison. When the Warden told the young man about the pardon, he became angry and said, "I'm guilty, I murdered another human being and I want to die."
 "But," the Warden replied, "I have your pardon in my hand!" No matter how the Warden pleaded, the prisoner kept demanding to die. Not knowing what to do, the Warden appealed to the Judge, to help him know what to do. The Judge said, "A pardon is not a pardon unless it is accepted!"
 So, the young man was executed. He had been completely forgiven for his sins against humanity, and for his other most grievous crimes. So why did he die? Because a pardon is not a pardon unless it is accepted!
 Jesus died in the place of every human being, who by their sins against God were deserving of the death penalty. Every human being who would ever live has been granted an unconditional pardon from God. But the catch is that you must WANT the pardon; you must see the need for the pardon and desire to have it! The pardon from God came when Jesus Christ, God's son, died on the cross for your sins. To accept the pardon means that you must believe that Jesus did this for you (He did what you could not do) and to accept Him therefore as your Savior and ask Him to be Lord of your life.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Happy Sunday

The Things We Do For LoveRenee Swope
"What a person desires is unfailing love ..." Proverbs 19:22a (NIV)
I had everything I wanted yet felt empty and confused.
My life was full of relationships and accomplishments I'd worked hard to gain, but none could fill or fulfill me.
Frustrated by my aching emptiness, tears streamed down my face as I thought about the guy I dated through high school and college. Our future plans had crumbled under the pressure of me expecting him to be all I needed. I had been crazy about him — a little too crazy.
I'll never forget the time a friend mentioned my ex-boyfriend was heading to our hometown for the weekend. We worked near each other, so Friday afternoon I parked by his office and waited for him to leave.
We both "happened" to be at the same fast food restaurant, at the same time and bumped into each other. After getting my order, I got in my car and followed behind him, hoping he'd see me, realize he couldn't live without me and signal to pull over so we could talk.
Seriously, what was I thinking? As you can guess, he never stopped. I was hopeless and humiliated.
A few weeks later, I was taking a walk around my college campus. My eyes drifted to the buildings, dorms and other landmarks of memories. Suddenly my mind filled with a collage of faces, reminding me of my efforts to win the approval of advisors, friends and professors — hoping their affirmation could fill my emptiness.
Although I was graduating soon, had a few great job offers and achieved success in many ways, my heart still felt restless. And I couldn't help but wonder: Why was all that I had never enough?
A thought rushed through my soul, stringing together two words I had never put next to each other. I sensed God answering me.
Renee, all you have ever wanted is unconditional love.
Unconditional love? I didn't know there was such a thing. Then God whispered into my soul: You'll never find the love you long for in anyone or anything but Me. I AM the unconditional love you're looking for.
The thought of God loving me without any conditions was inconceivable, yet something deep in my soul told me it was true. I'd been looking for love that didn't have to be earned. Love I didn't have to fear losing.
Honestly, it was hard to see how God's love could fill the emptiness in my heart. It took time, but I came to understand that God created me with that need for fulfillment so He could meet it.
Our key verse, Proverbs 19:22a, says, "What a person desires is unfailing love."
The word "desire" comes from the Hebrew word ta'avah, which means: to greatly long for, deeply desire or crave. Interestingly, unfailing love is mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, and not once is it attributed to a person. It is only attributed to God.
God gave us a desire for unfailing love because He knew it would lead us back to Him.
His love draws us to Him. Only we can stop God from reaching the deep and hidden parts within us that need Him most.
Will you invite Jesus to look into your heart today so He can show you what, who and where you might be looking to be filled and fulfilled? Then ask Him to fill and fulfill you with the promise and reality of His unfailing love instead.
Jesus, help me stop searching for fulfillment in anything or anyone but You. Will You satisfy me with Your unfailing love and help me depend on You to meet my deepest desires and needs. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy Friday & Saturday

The Day I Almost Gave UpLeah DiPascal
"The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help ... The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is near the broken hearted; He saves those crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:15-18 (HCSB)
I gripped the steering wheel of my car and stared at the hospital emergency doors. My heart pounded furiously, like a time bomb waiting to explode. The pressure in my head was almost unbearable. The invisible weight on my chest felt like someone dropped a sledgehammer on me.
Thoughts raced through my mind. I wanted to scream but could barely breathe a whisper. I just sat there lonely, afraid, shattered and completely empty inside.
Should I check myself into the hospital?
What if they admit me in the psychiatric ward and won't let me go home?
Who will take care of my children?
Will my husband still love me?
What if my friends find out?
Reaching for my phone, panic rushed over me like a tidal wave. A pool of tears cascaded down my face, as I cried, Jesus, please help me!
Sitting in my car, unable to move, I continued to pray and ask God questions like, How did I get here? I'm a Christian for heaven's sake! Things like this just don't happen to Christian women – or do they? I feel like such a failure.
Looking back now, I can see how years of worry and stress had brought me to that day.
Concerns about my family's finances kept me up most nights. Stress over a high-pressured job caused erratic panic attacks. Worry about my children's health created knots in my stomach. Struggling to help my aging parents resulted in midnight crying sessions.
My concerns consumed me. Worrying became an addiction, demanding my ongoing attention. I was trying to "hold it all together" on the outside, but on the inside, a sea of doubt and fear haunted me.
Maybe you're in a similar place. Have the stresses of life caught up with you too? Are you worried about your finances, health, marriage, job or kids? Do you wonder if anyone sees your pain or even cares? If you're brave enough to cry out for help, will anyone rescue you?
In today's verse, we are reminded we do have a Rescuer:
"The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help ... the righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is near the broken hearted; He saves those crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:15-18).
God sees you and hears your cries for help, even when no one else does. He knows your heartache. He sees your pain. If your heart is broken and you feel crushed from all sides, God promises to be close to you. Though you may not see Him with you physical eyes, He is there.
God rescued me that day in the hospital parking lot. After several hours of prayer, God calmed my heart and I called my husband. I reached out to close friends for help, and the healing started. Although I wanted an instant miracle, it took time, but God never left my side. He gently mended my broken heart and renewed my mind through His Word. He guided me along a journey that led to true freedom, for which I am forever grateful.
Has the stress of life taken its toll, causing you to feel afraid, lonely or ready to give up? Is your heart broken today? Let God rescue you, friend. He is ready. He is willing. He is able.
Dear Lord, it feels like my life is falling part. I desperately need You to rescue me. Thank You for hearing my cries and for delivering me from my troubles. Even when I am hidden from others, You see me, Lord. Thank You saving me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Happy Thursday

“The difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world is that all other religions are about man trying to reach up to God. Christianity is about God reaching down to man.”

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus 

When we think of religion, what comes to  mind—a set of rules, regulations and obligations, or a deep and intimate relationship with God?

Religion is information about our God, our Lord.  The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods: Relationship with our Lord, our God.   The kind of intense bond that no outside force can break.   It's a deep-down peace we will never experience except through loving our God, our Lord.

Jesus practiced a relationship with His Father and then offered that to us. The Jews offered religion.  Walking softly in condemning the religion of the Jews as the religion the Jews practiced was the religion that God had given them. It wasn't religion itself that was the problem. It was something else, something that makes the offer of a relationship with God appealing in contrast to what seemed like the empty rigors of religion and ritual. Today when planting a seed in someone, seems this is a big drawback.  "No, it's not like that," we say, "not all those rules, all those do's and don'ts, all that religion. This is a relationship."  Christianity does have rules, it does have do's and don'ts. It is a religion. But it was never meant to be just information, and that's where this slogan touches on truth.   A man knows his wife well not just because he can rattle off a series of facts about her (even a stranger can do that), but because he's deeply acquainted with her person on a day to day basis. Yet even so, there have been periods in the history of the church when true knowledge of God has given way to mere information about Him.  We must have peace with God before we can have the peace of God, and there's a profound difference.

Yes, Christianity is a religion, but it's true religion. True religion produces right relationship to God which leads to right experience and right intimate relationship with God.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Happy Wednesday

Lord, I Need Your HelpRenee Swope
"In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help." (Psalm 18:6 NIV)
One evening after an intense "discussion," my husband, J. J., told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough for me. He was right. I constantly found fault with him as a husband and as a dad.
But when he implied that I was impossible to please ... well, that sent my already-out-of-control emotions reeling. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the front door. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I replayed our conversation in my head.
I was determined to figure out what J. J.'s problem was and get Jesus to fix him. So I started filing complaints against my husband in what you might call a prayer. And I finally heard myself—all the ugliness, all the anger. That's when I realized, I need help. I needed God to help me figure out how—after seven years of a happy marriage—we had gotten to this ugly place.
Instead of just crying, I found myself crying out to God for help.
King David was much better at this than I was that day. He had a habit of crying out to God for help when he was in distress. One Bible scholar notes that the phrase, "'In my distress' refers, most probably, not to any particular case, but rather indicates [David's] general habit of mind, that when he was in deep distress and danger he had uniformly called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help."*
That night, when I stopped talking and started listening, I sensed God showing me I wanted J. J. to make up for all the ways my dad had fallen short as a father to me and as a husband to my mom. Years as a child in a broken home with a broken heart had led to a significant sense of loss and deep disappointment. Yet, up to that point, I had never grieved the happily-ever-after that I longed for but didn't have.
My unfulfilled hopes had become bitter expectations. I became controlling and critical, thinking that if I could get J. J. to be the husband and dad I wanted him to be, maybe my broken dreams could be put back together. But I was wrong. Instead of expecting my husband to make up for my losses, I needed to cry out to God with my hurts and call on Him for help.
Are there hurts that hold you hostage? Expectations no one could really ever meet? Need some help today? I know I do. And I know God is there, waiting for us to cry out to Him.
As I continued to process what had happened in my childhood and how it affected my marriage, I learned to ask God for help through each step of my healing journey. It took time, prayer, and courage, but God was my very present help.
By the way, I'm crazy about my husband. And so very thankful for that day several years ago when I finally asked the Lord for help.
Dear Lord, I need Your help, especially with _______________. Please show me where to start and be my help each step of the way. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Happy Tuesday

A Remedy for LonelinessVan Walton
"... those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25 (NLT)
I've spent much of my life as the new kid on the block. My daddy's job took him to numerous foreign countries, so I grew up living in far-away and strange places. When we returned "home" to put down permanent roots in the United States, I felt like a lonely outsider.
This nomadic childhood followed me into my adult life as my husband's career moved us cross-country many times.
As the newcomer in school, women's Bible studies, and jobs, I experienced not having friends, being excluded, and feeling different.
Though these isolating seasons were tough, something wonderful grew out of them: my relationship with God. Spending time with Him, I gained a new perspective on loneliness while reading Scripture. One verse in particular stood out to me: "... those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).
Reading this challenged me. Rather than cast responsibility on others to reach out to me, I could reach out to them. By doing so, I found I could bless them and revive myself! It took some time, but over the years I've discovered several key elements to living out this verse: learn to be a good friend, intentionally include others, and develop an interest in diversity.
Last year during the annual family night at the school where I teach, I spotted a mother sitting alone in a large room. God nudged me, and I knew what to do. I wasn't surprised she was by herself, because as I drew closer, I recognized her as the mother of one of our international students.
We definitely had our differences: a gap in our ages, language barriers that made us struggle to understand each other, and our different cultures. But we persevered and after a while we found common ground. She admitted to being lonely as a stranger in a foreign country. That I understood. Also, we were women, wives, mothers, friends. Most importantly we had a common faith.
That night, I gained a new friend.
We began to meet regularly. She told me about her recent conversion to Christianity and asked lots of questions. She had a few friends, like her, who had come to the United States to expose their children to an American education. These women also wondered about Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus. Could they join us?
We began huddling once a week around God's Word, talking about the creation, King David, and grace.
School ended. Summer started. They flew home. We promised to resume our studies this fall.
As this new season begins, I'm anticipating our weekly meetings; I miss my new friends and the happiness and laughter they bring.
Loneliness, if left unchecked, can lead to isolation, which may produce weariness, sadness and discouragement. This is not God's plan for our lives. He has called us to live in community, reaching out to others, serving, comforting, and fellowshipping.
Let me encourage you to be aware of others–in your neighborhood, your children's school, your church. Ask God to lead you to other women who are lonely. We long to be included, to feel like we belong, to have caring friends. One of the best ways to do this is to refresh someone else! You'll never experience that woman's amazing friendship, or be revived by her, until you reach out and invite her into your life.
Father God, You are a friend to the stranger, the wanderer, the lonely. Forgive me for sitting in my comfort zone and ignoring those around me who long for community. Remind me to practice hospitality, not just with my friends but with outsiders also. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy Monday

Wait Training 101
By Karen Ehman

"... but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

Ever feel like God signed you up for an intense "wait training" class?

You pray. You ask. You anticipate God's answer, but like an Internet page taking a long time to load, you must wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

I had to wait years before I became pregnant. During that time I attended baby showers while choking back tears.
I had to wait nearly three years for our too-expensive-for-our-new-financial-situation home to sell. During that time, I pinched pennies and lost sleep.

And I'm still waiting on many prayer requests: for a spiritually lost loved one, a family friend in ICU, a plan for my high school son's future. Waiting, waiting, waiting ...

But just as physical weight training builds strength, so does spiritual "wait training." We are promised this in Isaiah 40:31:
"... but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

How can waiting renew our strength? After all, doesn't waiting seem to sap our strength as we worry and fret and drum our fingers impatiently? It's exhausting playing the "What if?" game in our minds:

What if this doesn't work out?

What if God's answer is "No"?

What if the thing I fear the most actually happens ... what then?

All of this worry-laden waiting drains rather than strengthens. How can we turn this around and actually find ourselves renewed?

I have found that to shift my perspective in the waiting times replenishes my strength. I try not to think of those times of seemingly silence from God as waiting in the sense of sitting and anxiously anticipating a response. But as in waiting like a butler, maid or restaurant server.

Those who "wait on the Lord"—as in serve Him, cater to Him, help Him accomplish His work; those who take His order and bring Him what He wants—they are the ones who renew their strength.

They mount up with wings as eagles.

They walk and do not faint.

As we serve, we become more aware of what the One we are waiting on desires. We become alert, attentive, and in tune with His wishes. We begin to take our eyes off of our problems and fix them on the Lord instead. As we do, we get a glimpse into His heart.

Then, instead of the wait sapping our spiritual strength, it is renewed as we seek to do the Lord's will ... to make Him famous ... to give Him glory. Even in those long, hard times of waiting for an answer, we continue to serve Him.

Will you sign up with me for Wait Training 101?

You'll grow stronger spiritual muscles if you do. But we must commit to this perspective: we won't just "wait on the Lord," we'll wait on Him. Trust me, the tips He leaves are out of this world!

Dear Lord, teach me to shift my perspective during those times of waiting and doubt. May I stop fretting and worrying, and busy myself serving You instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy Sunday

Righteous Indignation

“Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”
1 Samuel 17:26(b), NLT

This well known biblical story of David and Goliath is one that I have grown up listening to. I love the fairytale-like storyline. The Israelites were at war, but nothing was changing, they had reached a fearful impasse. Even though they knew they were fighting in obedience to God, they were locked into a state of fear and dread, as each day they lived under intense intimidation. The prized Philistine, Goliath, goaded, teased, intimidated and verbally abused his way into a place of power over the entire Israelite army.

David entered the Israelite camp to find an army crippled by fear, all looking for someone who would stand up to the giant. David’s response is very profound, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

Immediately, David showed that he was different. He was affronted by Goliath’s words, not intimidated. When he asks for permission from King Saul to stand against Goliath, he makes the point once again, “he has defied the armies of the living God!”

You can see in David a rising of righteous indignation. It’s a powerful motivator of faith and obedience, as seen in David’s subsequent victory of Goliath. It’s what gave David the courage to go out and face a physical giant who, on seeing David, let out a tirade of abuse that would make most men question themselves and run away. Yet, David didn’t waver. Outraged at the sheer audacity of this man, his indignation was churning within him. This was faith in God, in real-life action!

The rest, as they say, is history. David overcame Goliath and the mighty Philistine army fell apart and fled, whilst the newly bolstered Israelite army took their victory. And all because one person stood and said, “Who are you to challenge God?”

We all have giants in our lives... areas where the enemy has gained a strong hold of fear, and intimates us from moving forward in our battle to freedom. These giants can cripple us inside, leaving us in a war but unable to fight ... no hope of movement or change. We need a David perspective, a righteous indignation, where we stand face to face with the enemy and ask the question, “Who are you that you challenge God’s child? I have God on my side and your very presence offends both me and Him!”

Once we have God in His rightful place in our lives, despite all that we see in the physical, or feel from intimidating thoughts in our minds, there’s nothing that we can’t stand against, and overcome, with God.

Prayer: Father God, raise a righteous indignation within me that is outraged and offended by what the enemy has stolen from my life, and how he holds me back from he victory You won for me at the Cross. I want to stand against him with You and say, “Who are you to challenge a child of God?” Amen.

Today's Writer : Lindsey Hanekom

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy Saturday


"Now godliness with contentment is great gain."
1 Timothy 6:6, NKJV

In the West we often have everything we need to hand, but do we have the compassion that Jesus has for the world; for the poverty stricken people we see and hear? What can we do, to make a difference? What does God ask us to do, to make a difference? We can’t carry the whole world on our shoulders, but we can do what He asks us to do. Can we hear Him, or are we too busy deciding what we want next and how we’re going to get it? Are we spending all our energy and money on going to get what we want.

Is it easy to be content with what we have? Is there perhaps a rhythm or habit needed to learn to be content? Paul said that he’d learnt to be content in whatever state he was in. Maybe if we sustained a habit of being thankful for what we have, remembering to hold back a little from the table, we might discover that we have much more than we first thought, and we can then share with others.

When my grandparents were alive they seemed to need much less than we do, yet they appeared more content. Perhaps it’s the availability of so much that makes us desire more. ‘If riches increase, don’t set your heart on them’ (Psalm 62:10).

What makes us content? Many a child would be content to have a full stomach, a warm blanket and a roof overhead. Those that help them are often contented people. But there are those that say, “Pastor, I need a bigger house”. And he replies, “But you never invite anyone round to your house!” Or “I need a bigger car.” And he says, “But you never give anyone a lift in your car!” The most contented people I know seem to enjoy blessing others, and are in turn blessed themselves. Somehow there seems to be a very strong relationship between contentment and sharing.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Contentment makes poor men rich, and discontent makes rich men poor”. Yet Paul says, that godliness added to contentment is even greater gain. As God’s children we should be the most content of all people. ‘For all things have come from You, and of Your own have we given you’ (1 Chronicles 29:14) ‘My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19).

‘My hope I cannot measure, My path to life is free – My Saviour has my treasure,
And He will walk with me’.
by Anna L.Waring

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to learn to be content with my days, to learn contentment in obedience and in freely giving away what You have already given me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Today's Writer : Pam Smith

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Let a Miracle Happen

"There's a new student waiting in your room," my principal announced, hurrying past me on the stairs. "Name's Mary. I need to talk to you about her. Stop in the office later."

I nodded and glanced down at the packs of pink, red and white paper, and the jars of paste and boxes of scissors I held in my arms. "Fine," I said. "I've just come from the supply room. We're making valentine envelopes this morning. It'll be a good way for her to get acquainted."

This was my third year of teaching fourth-graders, but I was already aware how much they loved Valentine's Day (now just a week away), and making these bright containers to tape to the fronts of their desks was a favorite activity. Mary would surely be caught up in the excitement and be chatting cheerfully with new friends before the project was finished. Humming to myself, I continued up the stairs.

I didn't see her at first. She was sitting in the back of the room with her hands folded in her lap. Her head was down and long, light- brown hair fell forward, caressing the softly shadowed cheeks. "Welcome, Mary," I said. "I'm so glad you'll be in our room. And this morning you can make an envelope to hold your valentines for our party on Valentine's Day."

No response. Had she heard me?

"Mary," I said again, slowly and distinctly.

She raised her head and looked into my eyes. The smile on my face froze. A chill went through me and I stood motionless. The eyes in that sweet, little-girl face were strangely empty - as if the owner of a house had drawn the blinds and gone away. Once before I had seen such eyes: They had belonged to an inmate of a mental institution, one I'd visited as a college student. "She's found life unendurable," the resident psychiatrist had explained, "so she's retreated from the world." She had, he went on, killed her husband in a fit of insane jealousy.

But this child - she could have been my own small, lovable niece except for those blank, desolate eyes. Dear God, I thought, what horror has entered the life of this innocent little girl? I longed to take her in my arms and hug the hurt away. Instead, I pulled books from the shelf behind her and placed them in her lap. "Here are texts you'll be using, Mary. Would you like to look at them?" Mechanically, she opened each book, closed it and resumed her former position.

The bell rang then, and the children burst in on a wave of cold, snowy air. When they saw the valentine materials on my desk, they bubbled with excitement.

There was little time to worry about Mary that first hour. I took attendance, settled Mary into her new desk and introduced her. The children seemed subdued and confused when she failed to acknowledge the introduction or even raise her head. Quickly, in order to divert them, I distributed materials for the envelopes and suggested ways to construct and decorate them. I placed materials on Mary's desk, too, and asked Kristie, her nearest neighbor, to offer help.

With the children happily engrossed, I escaped to the office. "Sit down," my principal said, "and I'll fill you in." The child, she said, had been very close to her mother, living alone with her in a Detroit suburb. One night, several weeks ago, someone had broken into their home and shot and killed the mother in Mary's presence. Mary escaped, screaming, to a neighbor's. Then the child went into shock. She hadn't cried or mentioned her mother since.

The principal sighed and then went on. "Authorities sent her here to live with her only relative - a married sister. The sister enrolled Mary this morning. I'm afraid we'll get little help from her. She's divorced, with three small children to support. Mary is just one more responsibility."

"But what can I do?" I stammered. "I've never known a child like this before." I felt so inadequate. "Give her love," she suggested, "lots and lots of love. She's lost so much. 

There's prayer, too - and faith, faith that will make her a normal little girl again if you just don't lose hope." I returned to my room to discover that the children were already shunning this "different" child. Not that Mary noticed. Even kindly little Kristie looked affronted. "She won't even try," she told me. I sent a note to the principal to remove Mary from the room for a short time. I needed to enlist the children's help before recess, before they could taunt her about being "different."

Mary's been hurt badly," I explained gently, "and she's so quiet because she's afraid she'll be hurt again. You see, her mother just died, and there's no one else who loves her. You must be very patient and understanding. It may be a long time before she's ready to laugh and join in your games, but you can do a lot to help her."

Bless all children. How loving they can be once they understand. On Valentine's Day, Mary's envelope overflowed. She looked at each card without comment and replaced it in her container. She didn't take them home, but at least she looked at them. She arrived at school insufficiently dressed for the bitterly cold weather. Her raw, chapped hands - without mittens - cracked and bled. Although she seemed oblivious to sore hands and the cold, I sewed buttons on her thin coat, and the children brought caps, scarves, sweaters and mittens. Kristie, like a little mother, helped Mary bundle up before she went outdoors, and she insisted on walking to and from school with her.

In spite of our efforts, we seemed to be getting no closer to Mary as the cold, dreary March days dragged by. Even my faith was wearing thin. My heart ached so desperately, wanting this child to come alive, to be aware of the beauty the wonder, the fun - and, yes - even the pain of living.

Dear God, I prayed, please let one small miracle happen. She needs it so desperately.

Then on a late March day, one of the boys excitedly reported a robin in the schoolyard. We flocked to the window to see it. "Spring's here!" the children cried. "Let's make a flower border for the room!"

Why not? I thought. Anything to lift our spirits. This time the papers we selected were beautiful pastel colors - with brown strips to weave into baskets. I showed the children how to weave the baskets and how to fashion all the flowers we welcome in early spring. Remembering the valentine incident, I expected nothing from Mary; nevertheless, I placed the beautifully colored papers on her desk and encouraged her to try. Then I left the children to do their own creating, and I spent the next half-hour sorting scraps of paper at the back of the room.

Suddenly, Kristie came hurrying to me, her face aglow. "Come see Mary's basket," she exclaimed. "It's so pretty! You'll never believe it!"

I caught my breath at its beauty. The gently curled petals of hyacinths, the daffodils' fluted cups, skillfully fashioned crocuses and violets - work one would expect from a child much older. "Mary," I said. "This is beautiful. How did you ever manage?" She looked at me with the shining eyes of any normal little girl. "My mother loved flowers," she said simply. "She had all of these growing in our garden."

Thank you, God, I said silently. You've given us the miracle. I knelt and put my arms around the child. Then the tears came, slowly at first, but soon she was sobbing her heart out against my shoulder. The other children had tears in their eyes, too, but theirs - like mine - were tears of joy.

We fastened her basket in the very center of the border at the front of the room. It remained there until school ended in June. On the last day, Mary held it carefully as she carried it out the door. Then she came running back, pulled a crocus from her basket and handed it to me. "This is for you," she said, and she gave me a hug and a kiss.

Mary moved away that summer. I lost track of her, but I'll never forget her. And I know God is caring for her.

I've kept the crocus in my desk ever since - just to remind me of Mary and of the enduring power of love and faith.

Hugs Lynn
Call it a gift. But don’t call it easy.
Call it what it is. Call it grace.