Living Power Ministry
Living Power Ministry
3218 Winslows Mills Rd.
Waldoboro, ME 04572
(207) 832-1307

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Bi-Weekly Devotional-September 10, 2018

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Scripture to meditate upon this week:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. ~ Galatians 1:10

   “You can’t play, because you don’t have pretty shoes. Your shoes are ugly.” These words pierced my heart as I learned that they had been addressed to my granddaughter, Scarlett, on her first day of kindergarten. Apparently, a group of girls excluded Scarlett from their “Pretty Shoe Game”, because her shoes did not measure up to their standard of pretty. She was wearing a pair of Keen sandals, gotten for her by her Dad, to wear on their hiking trips together. Instantaneously, on hearing this, the grandmother grizzly bear in me wanted to growl at those girls and go buy Scarlett “pretty shoes”!

If this devotional spoke to your heart in any way, or if you have thoughts or comments, please  
I would love to hear from you.

             In His Living Power,
             Bonnie Merrill
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August 28, 2018

A Bride Made Ready

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. ~ Revelation 19:7

  It might be easier, as believers, to see ourselves as the “children of God” (1 John 3:1), or even as the “sheep of His pasture” (Psalms 100:3), than it is to visualize ourselves as the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2 NLT). Yet that is exactly what we are! If you are a believer, you are also “his bride”! Brides typically busy themselves getting ready for the big day—their wedding day.
   We too, as “his bride”, must busy ourselves getting ready for our wedding day. The reality is that getting ready for an earthly wedding is a lot of work, and a heavenly one even more! Traditionally, in ancient Jewish culture, a bride spent at least a year preparing for her wedding day. One of the biggest and most time consuming jobs she had was to make and sew her wedding garments. That is our job as well. Revelation 19:8 tells us that as “his bride” we will be given “fine linen, bright and clean” to wear and that “fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people”. Therefore, we “sew” our wedding garments by doing “righteous acts” or the “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). 
   Jesus, our perfect Bridegroom, is also busy getting ready for our wedding day, for He has gone “to prepare a place” for us (John 14:2-3). When it is ready He will return for “his bride”, and our wedding day will finally be here! When that day comes we want to have “sewn” beautiful garments of “righteous acts” and “good works” that are “bright and clean”. We want to be a bride who “has made herself ready”! 

Dear Lord, Thank You for making me Your bride. Help me today to get busy “sewing” my wedding garments by doing the “righteous acts” and “good works” You have for me to do. Jesus, make me a bride ready for our wedding day. ~ Amen

August 5, 2018

Altogether Beautiful

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.  ~ Song of Solomon 4:7

  “You are beautiful,” when is the last time someone said those words to you? Did you believe them? Maybe it has been awhile since you have been told. “You are beautiful.” There, I said it, do you believe me? If that fact causes you to blush or shake your head, it might be that you are using the wrong standard to measure your beauty.
   Let’s be honest, most of us do not measure up to the world’s standard of beauty. The good news is we do not have to, because quite frankly, as believers, we measure up to a much higher standard of beauty; God’s standard! You see we are always beautiful to the lover of our souls, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The truth is, because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, we are not just beautiful, we “are altogether beautiful” and “there is no flaw” in us (Song of Solomon 4:7). On our worst of days, may that reality play like a love song, sung by the Good Shepherd, to our weary souls. 
   Being “altogether beautiful” is not about having the perfect body, but being part of the body of Christ, the church. Being “altogether beautiful” is not about the color of our skin, it is about having our sins washed white by the crimson blood of the Lamb. Ultimately, being “altogether beautiful” is about seeing ourselves the way our Father sees us, through the lens of love, that is His One and Only Son.  
   Starting today, let us stop being self-conscience when we look in the mirror, remembering we are “altogether beautiful” to the One who matters most.  

Dear Lord, You are so beautiful to me and it is so reassuring to know that I am “altogether beautiful” to You. Help me to remember, 
that Your work on the cross has made me eternally beautiful in Your eyes. ~ Amen

July 15, 2018

The Ultimate Price of Rescue

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

   The unprecedented rescue mission in Thailand captivated the world for nearly three weeks. The focus was on the boys’ soccer team and their coach, who had been exploring the Tham Luang caves after soccer practice, when a flash flood trapped them underground. However, it is Saman Nunan, I cannot forget. An ex-Navy Seal, Nunan returned to service to help with the rescue and died in the process. Four days and two separate extractions later, the entire team and coach were saved. 
   The world rejoiced, as did I. Still thoughts of Nunan flooded my mind, as the rains flooded the Tham Luang caves. He paid the ultimate price of rescue, by giving his life, in an effort to save those who could not save themselves. The boys and their coach were trapped on a ledge, in the dark, nearly six miles underground. It was a miracle they were found. It was a miracle they were alive. It was a miracle they were rescued. Oh, what it must have been like for them when they stepped out the dark cave into the light of day! Surely their lives are forever changed. I pray those rescued will not forget Saman Nunan, who died for them.
  The spiritual parallels of this heroic rescue are many. We were lost, in the dark, unable to save ourselves, when Jesus came to us, died for us, rescued us from sin and death, and we were forever changed! Now we “should no longer live for [ourselves] but for him who died for [us]” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Let us remember, daily, the One who died for us, the One who paid the ultimate price for our eternal rescue.

Dear Lord, Thank You those boys and their coach were rescued safely. Thank You for Nunan who gave his life in the rescue effort. It is a modern day reminder that Jesus paid the ultimate price to rescue me. Now Lord help me to live for You and not myself. ~ Amen

July 4, 2018

No King But Jesus

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—
and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” ~ Revelation 17:14

  Independence and July 4th are synonymous. Our forefathers fought long and hard for our independence from Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775—September 3, 1783). Wars are waged for any number of reasons. Looking back, many wars often had a motto linked to the reason for the war in the first place. A motto is “a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals guiding an individual, family, or institution” (Google dictionary).
   “Remember Pearl Harbor” fueled the war effort during World War II (September 1, 1939—September 2, 1945) and kept our troops fighting strong. “Remember the Maine” was the battle cry of the Spanish—American War (April 21, 1898—August 13, 1898). “Remember the Alamo” guided those who fought the Texan Revolution (October 2, 1835—April 21, 1836), by which they succeeded in breaking with Mexico. Likewise, there was a motto that encapsulated the American Revolutionary War. “We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!” Our founding fathers, John Adams and John Hancock penned those words on April 18, 1775. War broke out the next day and the motto “No King but Jesus” spurred our ancestors on to victory and America was born. 
   We are still a young nation, and in our youthfulness, let us not forget that our forefathers fought for independence from the king of England, not from the King of kings and Lord of lords. So this year as we celebrate our independence, let us remember dependence on God is paramount to being a strong, blessed, and independent nation. Or as William Penn so eloquently and accurately stated in 1668, “Those who are not governed by God, will be ruled by tyrants.”

Dear Lord, I love my country and am so saddened by the internal and cultural wars going on right now. Please, as a nation, turn our hearts back to You and help us see dependence on You guarantees the independence and power of our country. We are lost individually and as a nation without You, 
for truly there is “No King but Jesus”.~ Amen

June 17, 2018

Our Heavenly Father Knows

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 
~ Matthew 10:29 NLT

   Multiple bird feeders and a bird bath grace my backyard, just outside my sunroom. Most mornings I start my day sitting in the sunroom, rocking, and watching the birds. It is here I typically have my devotions.
   The other morning I was out in the sunroom praying, when a loud “Thump!” against the window startled me. My gaze followed a wet, vertical streak downward on the freshly, washed window. Getting up, I leaned my head against the pane and saw the bird. It was a downy woodpecker, neck turned to one side, black and white spotted wings spread, lying lifeless on the ground. I watched him for a couple minutes; still no movement. 
   It was likely the head on collision into the window had broken his neck, taking his life. Yet, my spirit would not rest, so I began to pray for the little fellow. After my first prayer, I looked and he was still lifeless. So I prayed again. This time when I looked he was sitting up with one wing tucked in, the other still partially spread. So I prayed again. This time when I looked he was gone; no doubt he had flown away! I looked up at the blue sky and smiled. 
   That downy woodpecker did not “fall to the ground without [our] Father knowing it” and our Father who cares so much about the birds cares even more about us. In fact, He cares enough to number the very hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). Yes, our Heavenly Father knows us, loves us, and can enable us to fly again, even after we fall, just like He did the downy woodpecker. 

Dear Lord, Your eye is on the sparrow and I know You watch over me. Thank You for being such a good Father 
who knows and loves all Your children, including me. ~ Amen

June 5, 2018

True  Meaning

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. ~ Romans 5:7

  Memorial Day has come and gone, yet it lingers with me. My family commemorated, as we do each year, with our first family cookout. As my five-year-old granddaughter, Scarlett, helped me prep the meal I asked if she knew it was Memorial Day and what the holiday meant. She said, “No Omi, do you?” Smiling I proceeded to explain that Memorial Day was a day to remember the men and women who have died for our freedom.
   Without hesitation she said, “Oh Omi we should thank them.” She is so right and yet as she said it I flashbacked to watching television with my husband, Ken, just a few days before and being inundated with commercials about Memorial Day sales. What does buying a car have to do with Memorial Day? The answer, nothing! I bemused that night about how we, as a nation, tend to lose sight of the true meaning of holidays. Thanksgiving is overshadowed by Black Friday, Christmas by Santa Claus, Easter by a bunny, Memorial Day by sales and the promise of summer. 
   The word “holiday” is actually derived from the Old English “haligdæg” meaning “holy day, consecrated day, religious anniversary; Sabbath”. Recently I read a quote that truly defines the true meaning of Memorial Day, “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you. Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul. The other died for your freedom.” Ken is a veteran who did not die in service to our country, but if he had surely I would observe Memorial Day more somberly. When we rightfully honor the fallen, we also acknowledge the grief of those they have left behind.  

Dear Lord, Forgive me for not taking Memorial Day as seriously as I should. May I always remember, and never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice that I might live free; first Your Son, and then the American soldier. ~ Amen

May 13, 2018

Like Mother, Like Daughter

“‘Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: “Like mother, like daughter.” ~ Ezekiel 16:44

   Ezekiel 16:44 is not an endearing sentiment. Actually, in context, it is a rebuke! The Israelites were imitating pagan nations in their sin and God was not impressed. 
   Personally, I have never wanted my daughters to be like me. I want them to be better than me. I have prayed they would surpass me in every area of life, especially in character. Thankfully, in many ways, God has answered my prayers.
   I tend to be a coward, often unwilling, or too afraid to speak up, trying desperately to keep the peace. My eldest daughter, Kaitlyn is not like me. She will fight to the death for something she believes in and will speak her mind no matter how many feathers it ruffles, including mine. She is above all brave. 
   I struggle with pride and excessive talking. My daughter, Jaclyn is not like me. She is quiet and humble. She weighs her words and therefore is not prone to idle chatter. She always thinks of others and since a young girl has had a cause greater than herself, she champions and supports with unwavering commitment. 
   Still there is one thing I pray my daughters got from me—their lavish love for their children. This week I saw Jaclyn cry as Eli got his first haircut, pained from the tiny snip on the apron string a milestone can make. I also watched Kaitlyn relish her first time seeing Scarlett do a horseback riding lesson. Their love for their children is palpable and there is no greater gift. So mothers, let us love our children lavishly so they will do the same. Then “like mother, like daughter” will be an endearing sentiment indeed. 

Dear Lord, You are my Father and You want me to imitate You in Your righteousness not others in their sin. Please help me, as a mother, to imitate Your love so that when my children imitate me it will be a good thing, because they will inadvertently be imitating You. ~ Amen

April 23, 2018

We Cannot Be Neutral

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. ~ Luke 11:23

   There is nothing like attending a funeral to get us thinking about life in general, and in particular life eternal! Death is the one certainty we all share. What comes after death is the big question. That question is answered for each of us before we breathe our last breath here. That question is answered by our response to Jesus.
   Our response to Jesus is clear cut, black or white. There is no murky gray area here, for Jesus declared, “Whoever is not with me is against me…” (Luke 11:23). You see we do not get to ride the fence when it comes to Jesus. Either we are with Him, or we are against Him; plain and simple. Neutrality is not an option. Not to make a decision for Jesus is to make a decision against Him by default. The battle line has been drawn in the spiritual war waging since the fall of man in the garden. It was drawn over two thousand years ago with Jesus’ own blood, poured out for us. 
   The truth is we all begin on the wrong side of the battle line. We are all born in enmity with God (Colossians 1:21; James 4:4), yet He calls us to cross over the battle line, to walk through the blood that cleanses us from all our sins in order for us to live our life with Him and for Him. Jesus wants us to be with Him. He wants it so much that He died to make it possible.

Dear Lord, Help me to live today boldly with You. Empower me to live my life so there is no question in my death that I am with You, for truly 
“to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). ~ Amen

April 10, 2018

Spring Eternal

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; ~ Isaiah 35:1-2a

   Spring is exhilarating; awakening us from hibernation. Spring after winter is warmth after cold, light after dark, life after death. Driving with windows down and radio up is spring to me. The thought of that soon coming day makes me smile. 
   This month, as my car windows open, buds will blossom; fitting for the name April comes from the Latin verb aperire, meaning “to open”. All blossoms are stunning, but particularly striking is a blossom in the desert, or one that breaks through the snow. The crocus has been known to do both. 
   Isaiah 35 speaks of the millennial reign of Christ which will burst into bloom like a rose in the desert. His kingdom blossoming will be in harmony with nature as it will follow a cold, dark season of judgment. The beauty of spring is multiplied because it is preceded by winter. The glory of the resurrection is magnified by the preceding crucifixion. And the splendor of the millennial reign will be intensified due to the preceding judgment. The reality is experienced sorrow sweetens our joy. 
   Personally, no matter what season we find ourselves in today, we can smile knowing an eternal spring is coming. Let every bud and blossom remind us of this truth. Soon the gates of the Holy City will spring open and we will enter Zion with singing and everlasting joy will crown our heads. We will be overtaken with gladness as sorrow and sighing will be no more (Isaiah 35:10b)! Welcome spring eternal!

Dear Lord, I long for spring eternal, but until then help me to burst into bloom like the crocus in the wilderness-a symbol of Your life 
in a dry and thirsty land. ~ Amen

March 27, 2018

Who Was, and Is, and Is To Come

“’Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” ~ Revelation 4:8

   Holy Week evokes images of the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, the Passion, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a week resonating chords of the foundational beliefs at the very core of our faith. It is a time for true believers to remember and rejoice over all God has done to ensure our eternity with Him. It is also a reminder of the hope we have that “This same Jesus…will come back…” (Acts 1:11b). Hallelujah!
   On Palm Sunday we reflect upon Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The Servant Savior, seated on a donkey, was met with shouts of worship, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13). On Maundy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper where with wine and bread the Suffering Savior ushered in a new covenant providing salvation to all who believe (Luke 22:20). On Good Friday our eyes are drawn to the cross where the Sacrificial Savior died to pay your sin debt and mine (Isaiah 53:5). Then on Easter Sunday we rejoice for Jesus’ tomb is empty and we serve a Risen Savior (Matthew 28:5-7).
   This Easter let us look back with deep gratitude at the “‘Holy, holy, holy…Lord God Almighty, who was…” crucified, buried, and resurrected on our behalf (Galatians 2:20). Let us marvel at the miracle that the “‘Holy, holy, holy…Lord God” now dwelling in our hearts through His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19). And let us find renewed hope that the “‘Holy, holy, holy…Lord God to come” again not as “the Lamb, who was slain” (Revelation 5:12), but as “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14)!

Dear Lord, This Holy Week as I remember Your passion and Your resurrection, with sincere gratitude and great joy, may I also look ahead with renewed hope and anticipation to the day when You will come again. Help me to more earnestly long for Your appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). ~ Amen

March 13, 2018

Know His Works

He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,'… So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor ~ Job 37:6-7

   March has come in like a lion in the Northeast, roaring wildly in the wind and mounting snow of three Nor’easters thus far. These storms literally stopped most of us in our tracks, canceling schools and flights, closing stores and offices and bringing mail to a near standstill. It is obvious looking at this weather pattern, along side of Job 37:6, that God is talking a lot to the snow and saying, “Fall on the earth."
   Nor’easters can be discouraging as they bring the chore of snow removal and often the frustration of cancellations and power outages. However, if we look at Job 37:7 we see God’s reason for such storms is not to frustrate us, but rather “So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor.” Could it be that this last burst of winter is to encourage us to stop our “labor” and start noticing “his work”? If so, what better way to do that than enjoying the winter wonderland He has created? It has been said, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade!” Well it could also be said, “When life gives you snow make a snowman, a snow angel, or a snowball!”
   The last storm, with my office closed, I took the time to go sledding and snowshoeing, as well as time to make a snowman and throw a few snowballs. What fun! What joy! At one point as I lay in the snow looking toward heaven watching the snowflakes fall, I was filled with awe over the beauty and wonder of God’s work. The next storm let us all take the time to stop our “labor” and “know his work.”  

Dear Lord, You are the Creator of all things, including snow. Help me to take time to see Your work, 
in some wondrous way, during the next snowstorm. ~ Amen

February 27, 2018

The Spirit Fills, Leads, and Empowers

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil… Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. ~ Luke 4:1, 2a & 14

   Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, heaven opened, the Spirit descended like a dove and the Father spoke His love and pleasure over His Son (Luke 3:21-22). It was a mountain top experience that took place in a river bed, marking the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” when He left the lush lands of the Jordan and was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4:1). Then after being victorious over temptation Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).
   This threefold process of being filled, led, and empowered by the Holy Spirit strikes me in a meaningful way. Jesus was praying when “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). All true believers can be filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:11). Yet perhaps we are never more in touch with the Spirit’s desire to fill us, than when we pray. Once filled with the Spirit, He then leads us where we should go, even if it be into the wilderness. We need not fear the wilderness, for filled with and led by the Spirit we can not just survive, but thrive there, just as Jesus did (Luke 4:2-13).
   It is a deep truth that as the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire; we are stronger after our times of testing (Romans 5:3-4). After His time of testing, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Likewise believers filled with and led by the Spirit will ultimately live in the power of the Spirit. What a way to live!  

Dear Lord, Thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit. Today please lead me by Your Spirit through any temptations or testing, so that I can live in the power of Your Spirit. I know there is no other way to truly live. ~ Amen

February 12, 2018

The God of Winter

The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. ~ Job 37:10

   Some people love winter, others not so much, and the vacillators have usually had enough by the time February rolls around. My dear friend loves playing in her Winter Wonderland, be it skating, skiing, sledding, or snowshoeing. I want to love winter like she does, but sometimes it is hard. Recently she showed me Job 37:10. It gave me a new perspective and appreciation for the ice, snow, and low temperatures that make up the coldest and perhaps most unappreciated season of the year.​
   Now when I drive pass ice capped Pemaquid Lake, instead of shivering at the frozen cold, I am awestruck that “the breath of God” produced the ice upon it. How miraculous is that? The same breath that breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7); the same breath that will ultimately “overthrow” the enemy of our souls (2 Thessalonians 2:8) breathed upon Pemaquid Lake and froze it! Now when I look at my back yard covered in a white fluffy blanket of snow, I am filled with gratitude that God has likewise covered me with His righteousness, for though my sins were “like scarlet” He has made them “as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Now when the bright light of the sun upon the snow forces me to reach for my sunglasses, I am reminded of the blinding white glory of God (Daniel 7:9; Matthew 28:3; Revelation 1:14).
   The God of winter offers us the chilling beauty of a frozen lake, the pure beauty of a fresh snowfall, and the glorious beauty of the bright white snow reflecting the sun. Winter makes the breath of God visible, making winter a pretty amazing season after all. 

Dear Lord, You are the God of all seasons, including winter. Thank You for the beautiful reminder in Job of what a special season winter is, because it is the only season where I can literally see Your breath in the frozen lakes and ponds. Help me appreciate winter more and more. ~ Amen

January 28, 2018

Serve Without Fear

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them…to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. ~ Luke 1:68, 74-75

   Fear grips a lot of us. I know it can grip me. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what others may think. The truth is fear can wrap its nasty, slimy tentacles around us, hold us in a vise grip that paralyzes us from doing anything, let alone serve God.
   When Zechariah saw the angel of the Lord he “was gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12). Gabriel immediately tried to calm his fears, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard” (v. 13). However, Zechariah’s fear gave way to doubt and he questioned, “How can I be sure of this?” (v. 18). Fear and doubt can work as a team to cripple our effectiveness in serving God. Fear is the flip side of faith and where fear breeds doubt, faith breeds confidence!
   Zechariah spent his wife’s pregnancy as a mute, his tongue not loosed until after the child’s birth when he confirmed his name was to be John, just as Gabriel had said (v. 57-64). When Zechariah could finally speak again, he burst into praise and song (v. 64-79). The words of Zechariah’s song are beautiful, for he has come to realize that it is God Himself who enables “us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74-75).  
   So if we are tired of being gripped with fear, doubting our worth, and failing God’s work as a result, let us ask God to enable us to serve Him “without fear”. Not only can He do it, He longs to do it. With His help let us serve Him in faith and confidence from this day forward.

Dear Lord, Thank You for enabling me to serve You as I should “in holiness and righteousness” and “without fear”. I am unable to do so on my own. 
Today help me to depend on You and not myself, in my service to You and for You. ~ Amen

January 14, 2018


Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along inS years.”” ~ Luke 1:18

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” ~ Luke 1:34

   Questions. We all have them. The issue is not our questions, but the spirit behind them. Our questions, and how we ask them, shows whether they are rooted in doubt or belief. Zechariah’s and Mary’s responses, when Gabriel appeared to them announcing the births of John the Baptist and Jesus respectively, is a perfect example.
   When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah announcing that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son, Zechariah had a question, “How can I be sure of this?” (Luke 1:18). His question, “How can…” implies doubt. Apparently an angelic appearance was not enough for Zechariah to believe, he needed something more to “be sure”. You see the announcement seemed impossible to Zechariah, because he was “an old man” and his wife was “well along in years” (Luke 1:18). Zechariah’s doubt had consequences. Since Gabriel had been “sent to speak to” Zechariah and tell him the good news, Zechariah would “be silent and not able to speak” until Gabriel’s announcement came true (Luke 1:19-20). 
   When Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing that she would give birth to the Messiah, Mary had a question, “How will this be…?” (Luke 1:34). Her question, “How will..” implies belief. Gabriel’s announcement to Mary is even more impossible than his announcement to Zechariah, because Mary was a virgin! Still she did not question if it would happen, but rather how. A legitimate question given the circumstances! Mary believed God could do the impossible, “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38)!
   Therefore let us weigh our questions and the spirit behind them. May we freely ask God questions, while never questioning God. 

Dear Lord, You know I have a lot of questions about a lot of things. Help the spirit behind my questions to be belief and not doubt. Enable me, 
through the power of the Holy Spirit, to believe You for the impossible. ~ Amen

January 2, 2018


Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? 
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. ~ Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new!"… ~ Revelation 21:5a (ESV)

  There is something wonderful about something new! New is fresh. New is clean. New is good. From new clothes to a new car, from new headphones to a new house; we all love new. Something new carries with it a sense of promise and hope. Hence, the beauty of a new year. A new year holds the promise of new things and spurs the hope of good thing.
   After 70 years in captivity in Babylon, the Israelites were in desperate need of promise and hope. When God spoke through Isaiah the prophet He declared, “I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19). How refreshing and exciting those words must have been to the captives! God was promising them deliverance, and just like the first Exodus, the “new thing” God was doing would be something to “Behold.” God had parted the Red Sea before, but now He was going to “make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”! 
   God not only does new things, He makes things new. There is nothing more promising and hopeful than that! And that is exactly what God has done for every true believer. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Finally, He will make “all things new” including “a new heaven and a new earth” in the most glorious Exodus of all, when the Messiah comes again (Revelation 21:5a, 1). 
   So, if you want a new you this new year, the best way to guarantee it will happen is to ask God to do something new in you and make something new of you. 

Dear Lord, You delight in doing new things and making things new. This year Father please do a new work in me and make me more like Jesus. Thank you for newness of life (Romans 6:4), help me to walk more fully in it this year than I ever have before. ~ Amen

December 24, 2017

Unto Us

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; ~ Isaiah 9:6a (NKJV)

   Forgiven! Did you see it when read the beginning of Isaiah 9:6? Honestly, I did not until now. Just look at the first and last words and see that it is plainly spelled out “For…given”! These two words literally jumped off the page at me, as I read Isaiah 9:6. Somehow, I have always equated Christmas with God’s love and Easter with God’s forgiveness. However, the two cannot be separated!
   The Christmas story is all about forgiveness; our need for it, and God’s loving provision of it, through His Son. The birth of Jesus speaks to our need of forgiveness, as there was “no room in the inn” for the Savior of the world to be born (Luke 2:7). Isaiah had prophesied about this holy night 700 years prior. The Jews had been eagerly awaiting the Messiah for hundreds of years and yet could not “see” Him when He came! It is still a problem today, we have “no room” for Jesus in our hearts or in our lives, because both are too full of other things. It is an eternal tragedy that keeps us from experiencing the miracle of the Messiah. We must “see” our sin, before we can “see” our Savior. 
   When Jesus was given “unto us” on that holy night so long ago, He was God’s loving provision of forgiveness “unto us” as well. This year may we see the birth of Jesus for all that it is, including our forgiveness. Jesus was born so that you and I could be born again. That is why the little babe in the manger would grow to be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b). 

Dear Lord, How amazing that after all these years You have enabled me to see Christmas in a whole new light. Your love and forgiveness are inseparable and are personified in Jesus. Thank You Lord for the greatest of all gifts, Your Son through whom I am forgiven! ~ Amen

December 3, 2017

Let's Pray to Jesus

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. ~ Mark 10: 14 & 16

   Jesus loves little children and He often uses them to teach us “grown-ups” a thing or two. When my daughters where young, He used them repeatedly to teach me simple truths. Now He uses my grandchildren in much the same way.
   I spend a lot of time in the car with my four-year-old granddaughter, Scarlett, or “Miss Scarlett” as I affectionately call her. While on the road she likes to play games; I Spy, Simon Says, Hide and Seek, Tell a Story, Sing a Song, etc. The other day, while chauffeuring her to her dance recital dress rehearsal, as usual we were playing games, when she said, “Omi (as she affectionately calls me), let’s play a new game.” Up for the challenge I asked her what she would like to play. Without hesitation she said, “Let’s play Pray to Jesus. First I will pray to Jesus and then you can pray to Jesus.” My heart melted and my spirit swelled with joy as she prayed and thanked Jesus for her day, for dance, and for her pets.
   We each prayed three short prayers before pulling into the parking lot. After getting her out of her car seat, l hugged her tight, and in that moment it was as if God whispered in my ear, “My child, you know how you felt when you heard her pray, that’s how I feel whenever you pray.” My eyes welled with tears. God had used precious Miss Scarlett to confirm experientially one lesson He has been trying to teach me about prayer: Our prayers not only bless us, they bless God (Psalm 116:2 NLT). So bless God today and pray.

Dear Lord, How amazing to think I can bless You by praying to You. 
Please help that truth to ignite a desire for prayer in me. Bless Your Holy Name. ~ Amen​

November 22, 2017

Thankful for Life

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. ~ Psalm 9:1

   This month we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, birthed from the hardships our nation’s settlers survived. It is a time to thank God not only for His power and provision, but also for His protection. Recently, I have seen God’s protection firsthand and am truly grateful for it.
   Last month a windstorm tore through Maine leaving many areas in my town and surrounding communities looking like a war zone. Some trees were literally uprooted, while others snapped in half. A great pine fell in my back yard, but thankfully it just missed hitting my husband’s shop. A huge branch came down parallel to my car, but thankfully not one limb scratched it. God’s protection was obvious in both instances, as He was gracious enough to protect our things.
   However, His greatest protection came later that day, after the worst of the storm. It came when my son-in-law was in a terrible accident. As a sleep deprived dad of an eight month old, he fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the yellow line into oncoming traffic, went down an embankment, and hit a tree. The car was totaled, but thankfully he walked away.
   God protected my things, and for that I am grateful, but more importantly He protected my son-in-law, and for that I give Him my deepest thanks and praise. Things can be replaced, but life cannot. The storm and its aftermath helped me remember what I already know: one of God’s greatest gift is life. Life is such a precious gift that God gave His only Son so we could have it to the full (John 3:16, 10:10). Therefore, the way we best thank Him for life is by living our lives for Him.  

Dear Lord, this Thanksgiving I give You thanks for all the gifts You have given me; especially life itself. 
Help me to live my life for You as my offering of thanksgiving. ~ Amen

November 8, 2017

Our Example in Prayer

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. ~ Luke 5:16

   Jesus prayed often (Luke 5:16) and twenty-five of those times of prayer are recorded in Scripture. He prayed at critical times in His life; at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22), before choosing His apostles (Luke 6:12-13), before His transfiguration (Luke 9:28-29), before His death (Luke 22:39-46), and on the cross (Luke 23:34, 46). He often prayed alone (Luke 6:12, 9:18) and He prayed when life was incredibly full (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:32-35; Luke 5:15-16). How amazing to know Jesus continues His ministry of prayer to this day, as He intercedes for you and me (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25)!​
   It is no wonder that watching Jesus’ example of prayer led one of the disciples to ask Him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1). It is interesting to note that the disciple did not ask Jesus to teach them “how to pray” but simply “to pray” (Luke 11:1). Prayer was the essence of Jesus’ relationship with His Father and truly is our example of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). The reality often is that “we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words” (Romans 6:26 BSB).
   So the first step to a vibrant prayer life is simply to pray. Start a conversation with Almighty God believing that He is listening and able to answer (Psalm 116:2 NLT). Our words do not have to be many, they do not have to be eloquent, they just need to be honest and real. God knows our hearts and every word that is on our tongue before we even speak (Psalm 139:4). Prayer is not for God to hear us, but rather for us to hear God.  

Dear Lord, How amazing to think that even now You are interceding on my behalf before the Father. Prayer came so naturally to You. 
Please help it to come naturally to me as well. Oh Lord, teach me to pray. ~ Amen

October 23, 2017

Wilderness Preparation

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, ~ Luke 4:1

   The lessons of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness are threefold. First, temptation is not sin. Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). This gives us hope that as believers we too can resist temptation, by the power of the Spirit within us. Second, there is a way to stand against temptation. Jesus countered every temptation with the Word. This gives believers hope that we likewise can conquer temptation, through the power of God’s Word (Hebrews 4:12).
   Third, the wilderness is a place of preparation. This gives believers hope that times of temptation and struggle have purpose. It is with divine purpose that Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, just as the Israelites were in the wilderness forty years (Luke 4:2; Numbers 32:13). The link between the two is clear, as Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6 and 8 in response to the enemy’s temptations (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). First, we see Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, where Moses reminded the people of the manna God provided. Then He quoted Deuteronomy 6:13, where Moses warned the people against an attitude of pride after they had entered Canaan. Finally, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, where Moses referred back to a time when the Israelites doubted God’s presence (Exodus 17:7). 
   God is not only with us in the wilderness, sometimes He actually leads us there (Luke 4:1). The wilderness is a place of pruning and testing. It is a painful place of preparation, where God provides (Deuteronomy 8:3-4, 15-16; Matthew 4:11). The Israelites left the wilderness and entered the Promised Land. Jesus left the wilderness and entered public ministry. God uses the wilderness to prepare us for His promises and purposes.  

Dear Lord, I do not like the wilderness, yet I know I must go through it in this life. When I do, help me to remember Your time in the wilderness and to trust that You are preparing me for the fulfillment of Your promises and purposes. ~ Amen

October 4, 2017

Let Us Stand Not Fall!

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
 just as we are—yet he did not sin. ~ Hebrews 4:15

  The temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) should bring hope to all believers. Jesus was tempted in “every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus did not fall into temptation, rather He stood against it. That same Jesus now resides in the hearts of all believers, through God’s Holy Spirit, empowering us to stand against temptation as well.
   A comparison of the temptation in the garden to that in the wilderness is telling. The enemy spoke to both Eve (Genesis 3:1, 4, 5) and to Jesus (Matthew 4: 3, 6, 9). The enemy distorted God’s word to both Eve (Genesis 3:1) and to Jesus (Matthew 4:6). The enemy came at both Eve and Jesus with his full arsenal of temptation, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16; Genesis 3:5-6; Matthew 4:2-3; Matthew 4:7-8).  
   Though the temptations were similar the responses were polar opposite. Eve let the enemy have the last word (Genesis 3:5). Jesus always had the last word and it was always Scripture (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6) and she and Adam left the garden in sin and shame (Genesis 3:23-24). However, Jesus commanded the enemy to flee and “the devil left him” (Matthew 4:10-11). What Adam and Eve failed to do in the garden, Jesus accomplished in the wilderness. Adam and Eve gave into sin, Jesus overcame it. This is glorious news, for if Jesus stood victorious over sin we can too! Standing, not falling is now every believer’s heritage! God help us to live it.  

Dear Lord, Thank You for going into the wilderness and being tempted in every way as I am, but without sin. Help me, this day, 
to stand victorious over sin for You, the One who conquered sin, lives in me. ~ Amen

September 17, 2017

Temptation: The Pride of Life

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:… ~ Luke 4:9-10

For everything in the world—…the pride of life…comes not from the Father but from the world. ~ 1 John 2:16

   The devil’s arsenal of temptation is limited (1 John 2:16). Therefore, when Jesus did not succumb to the “the lust of the flesh” or “the lust of the eyes,” the enemy came at Him with all he had left, “the pride of life.”
   The “pride of life” is “an unholy ambition for self-display and self-glory” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 2314). So first the devil questioned Jesus’ identity, then tempted Him to prove Himself by jumping from the temple (Luke 4:9). The enemy upped the ante by quoting Psalm 91:11-12 out of context (Luke 4:10-11). The hiss of implication here is that if the Messiah jumped from the temple He would be miraculously protected and Jewish acceptance would follow. 
   Surely Jesus desired God’s “chosen” people (Deuteronomy 7:6) to recognize Him as Messiah. He “longed” to gather them together “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37). In fact, His heart was so tender toward the Jews, He wept over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). Yet Jesus “did not” (Hebrews 4:15) jump, but declared, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Luke 4:12).
  Satan tried using Scripture against the Savior to no avail. The father of lies (John 8:44) twists the true words of God for his own evil purposes. He did it in the garden, he did it in the wilderness, and he still does it today. We need be careful whenever we are tempted to prove ourselves to anyone, in any way, for any reason. Believers are to display and glorify God, not ourselves. Truthfully, there is no need to prove ourselves, if we truly know who we are in Jesus. 

Dear Lord, Pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18) and the “pride of life” tempts me to put myself on display 
in order to gain glory and praise. Keep me from falling into this temptation, for You alone are worthy of praise and glory. ~ Amen

September 3, 2017

Temptation: The Lust of the Eyes

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”  ~ Luke 4:5-7​

For everything in the world—the lust of the eyes…comes not from the Father but from the world. ~ 1 John 2:16

   While Jesus was in the wilderness He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). First, the devil tempted Jesus with “the lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16) by appealing to His physical hunger. When He did not succumb to that temptation, the enemy came at Him with “the lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16).
   Jesus had just been baptized and His public ministry had yet to begin. Jesus loved the world and every person in every kingdom. We are the reason He came, and we are the reason He died (John 3:16). So when the devil “showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world,” and offered to give them to Jesus, it was a real temptation…a temptation to gain the world without going to the cross. The enemy tempted Jesus by “showing” Him an easier way. All He had to do was worship the enemy. “Yet he did not” (Hebrews 5:15). Instead, He pointed to the Father, the only one worthy of worship, and whose plans are always good, though not often easy. "Jesus answered, 'It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only'” (Luke 4:8).
  The fact is seeing something we want and love can be a temptation (Genesis 3:6; 2 Samuel 11:2-4). A temptation only compounded, when there seems to be an easy way to get it apart from God. So what are we looking at? What has caught our eye? If it is anything other than God we need to be very careful, for “sin is crouching at [our] door” (Genesis 4:7). But we need not fall, for Jesus is our salvation. We simply need to fix our eyes on Him (Hebrews 12:2). 

Dear Lord, There are so many things in this world that catch my eye and steal my gaze from You. 
Help me to fix my eyes upon You, once again. Please give me eyes to see You alone, 
for ultimately what I stare at becomes what I worship. ~ Amen

August 13, 2017

Temptation: The Lust of the Flesh

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” ~ Matthew 4:1-3

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh…comes not from the Father… ~ 1 John 2:16

   It was while Jesus was in the wilderness that He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). It might be hard to conceive that the three specific temptations the devil came at Jesus with could encompass being “tempted in every way” and yet it does.
   You see the devil’s arsenal against us is limited. There are only three ways in which we can be tempted, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Sometimes the tempter comes at us with all three barrels blazing, just like he did Jesus in the wilderness.  
   First the tempter came armed with “the lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16). The “lust of the flesh” appeals to our sensual bodily appetites. Jesus had fasted for “forty days and forty nights” and “he was hungry” (Matthew 4:2). The Greek word used here for “hungry” means “to famish absolutely; starving.” After over a month without anything to eat Jesus’ physical body was screaming for food. Bread would have tasted so good. How easy it would have been for Him to turn those stones to bread and satisfy His hunger. “Yet he did not” (Hebrews 4:15). Instead, He pointed to His Father who satisfies every need and hunger. “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
   Therefore, when we find ourselves hungry, no matter what we are hungry for, let us be on guard for often that is when the enemy will come, tempting us to satisfy our hunger ourselves, when the truth is only God can truly satisfy us (Psalm 107:9; Isaiah 58:11; Jeremiah 31:25). 

Dear Lord, You know what I am hungry for, and often it is for things that cannot truly satisfy. 
Help me to turn to You when I am hungry and trust You to satisfy me body, mind, and soul. ~ Amen

July 30,2017

“If” vs. “It”

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God…”
Jesus answered, “It is written…”
“If you are the Son of God,” he said…
Jesus answered him, “It is also written…”
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:3-4, 6-7, 9-10

   Recently my dear friend brought to my attention that there are many lessons to be learned from the temptation of Christ. Let’s look at the lesson of “if” versus “it”. Two little words—one big, important lesson.
   “If” is like a chisel the enemy uses to chip away our faith, create a wedge of doubt, and ultimately lead us into sin and unbelief. Doubt destroys faith. Three times the devil tried to use the chisel of “if” to chip away at Christ’s identity as “the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3, 6, 9). Likewise, he often uses it on us to attack our identity in Christ. The good news is we can knock the chisel of “if” right out of the devil’s hand with the sword of “it”—just like Jesus did.  
   Each time Satan came to Jesus with an “if”, Jesus countered him with an “it”. Not just any “it”, but specifically, “it is written” (Matthew 4: 4, 7, 10). Satan’s “if” will always cower to Jesus’ “it” giving him no choice but to flee (Matthew 4:11; James 4:7). Likewise, in order for us, as believers, to use the sword of “it” effectively as Jesus did, we must know what is written. We must know the Word—for the sword of the Spirit is the word of God and our only offensive weapon in this spiritual war now waging (Ephesians 6:17).
   Therefore, let us daily endeavor to know the Word, so the next time the enemy comes at us with the chisel of “if”, we may flash the well sharpened double-edge sword of “it”, and send him running like the defeated foe he is. 

Dear Lord, the enemy wants to destroy my identity in You with his chisel of “if”. Please give me the sword of “it” today as I study Your Word, so that I can resist temptation jus as you did, Jesus. You are my perfect example. Help me to follow you. ~ Amen

July 16, 2017

“Even If”

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it…But even if he does not…
we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:17-18

   We all long for faith to believe in the power of God to “deliver us” from any situation, and cling to Him as our only hope “even if he does not” (Daniel 3:17-18). The truth is “even if” the Lord allows us to be stripped of everything, as He did Job, He is still worthy of our praise (Psalm 145:3). He is still our only hope (Psalm 39:7).
   We, as believers, will all face situations in this life that will require “even if” faith. One of mine came this past February as my daughter, Jaclyn, was in premature labor. On the drive to meet her at the hospital I felt like Jacob, desperately wrestling with God for His blessing (Genesis 32:22-32). However, in the midst of the struggle I knew God was requiring something from me as well. He required “even if” faith in this situation. Would I still trust Him, “even if” He took the baby Home? Remembering Jaclyn’s previous miscarriage, honestly, in that moment, the gut wrenching cry of my heart was, “No!” 
   God gave His One and Only Son because He loved me and yet I would not love and trust Him if He took my grandson? My response brought me to my knees where I begged for the “even if” faith I did not have (Romans 12:3 KJV). God gave it and Elijah was born.
   “Even if” faith knows that when all seems lost, His love and salvation never are, and that is more than enough (Psalm 46). So believer take heart, and know “even if” faith is available to you and will enable you to sing, “It is well with my soul” even when all is not well in your life.  

Dear Lord, Life can be so hard and my faith can so easily falter. Please give me “even if” faith to trust You “even if” You do not deliver me from the toughest situations, for when You do not spare me from the fire You are with me in it. ~ Amen

July 3, 2017

Faith of Our Fathers

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. Proverbs 14:34

   This week as we commemorate the founding of our great nation, let us not forget that the United States of America was birthed in faith—faith in God and faith that “one nation under God” could afford mankind unparalleled liberties. “Righteousness exalts a nation,” (Proverbs 14:34) and no doubt it was the righteousness and the faith of our fathers that helped propel the United States of America from a floundering new country to the most powerful nation in the world. Our founding fathers were not just great men they were men of God.
   One does not have to read far into our Declaration of Independence before God is acknowledged: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And the declaration concludes “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence".
   One cannot dispute the fact that the 56 delegates, who signed the Declaration of Independence, were a profoundly intelligent, religious, and ethnic-minded group. They represented eight different denominations and four signers were current or former full-time preachers. Many others were sons of clergymen.
   Two hundred forty-one years ago we fought and struggled to have independence to worship and serve God . Today it seems we fight and struggle for independence from God. The difference between those two goals is catastrophic for our nation. The first exalts our nation; the latter will ultimately destroy it. It is time for us to not just remember the faith of our fathers, but to return to it!

Dear Lord, Thank You for the privilege of living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Thank You for the freedom to worship and serve You here. Help us to truly be the United States of America, and one nation under God, and let it begin with me. ~ Amen

June 11, 2017

Answered Prayer

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. ~ 1 Samuel 1:27

   Our youngest daughter, Jaclyn always dreamed of being a mother. Her first pregnancy tragically ended in a miscarriage, igniting her burning desire for a baby into a blaze. Like Hannah she prayed for a baby (1 Samuel 1:27), but then waited over a year for the answer. So last summer when she announced she was expecting, we jumped for joy and praised God for answered prayer.
   Then one day in February Jaclyn was transported to the hospital via ambulance. Once there her labor was fast and hard. Standing by her side, along with her husband, Mizael I was awed as Elijah made his grand debut five weeks premature. His cry sprung the medical team into action, giving Jaclyn only a moment to hold him before he was placed in an incubator and wheeled up to the NICU. A snapshot of that snuggle will forever be etched on my heart, for in that moment I saw the answer to my prayer ever since hearing the joyful news, “Mama, we’re going to have a baby!” 
   Daily I had asked God to knit Elijah together strong and healthy in Jaclyn’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16). Moments after his birth the doctor declared, “He is strong and healthy!” Elijah proved it by going home after less than two weeks in the NICU. There have been struggles, but he continues to grow stronger each day. 
   Now my prayer is that he will grow to be a mighty man of God and like his namesake it will be said of him, “the word of the LORD came to Elijah” (I Kings 17:2). Oh that I would live to see that prayer answered as well! The lesson for me in all this is two fold. First, it has been a confirmation that God does indeed answer prayer. Sometimes His answer is, "No." Sometimes His answer is, "Wait." These are hard answers to hear and accept, yet they only make His answer of, "Yes" all the sweeter. Second, even when we do not understand God's answer to our prayers, we can always trust it.

Dear Lord, Children are a gift from You (Psalm 127:3 NLT) and grandchildren a grand gift! Thank You for the blessing of seeing my children’s children (Psalm 128:6). I pray that as they see me they will also see a reflection of You. ~ Amen

May 7, 2017

The Death of Death

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? ~ 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

   Easter Sunday has come and gone. However, the result of what God accomplished through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and the truth of what we celebrate are pertinent to true believers each and every day.
   Death is a harsh reality of life in a fallen world, for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 8:23a). Thankfully, that is not the end of the reality or the verse. Jesus’ resurrection shines a victorious and glorious light on the dark, cold grip of death and melts it, for “the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 8:23b).
   Believers need not fear death, for it has been swallowed up in the victory of eternal life. Eternal life is only a breath away, for after a believer breathes their last breath here, they will breathe their next breath in eternity with the Lord (Psalm 116:15; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Believers need not fear death for another reason. The sting of death has been eradicated by our complete and utter salvation (Romans 8:1). David said it best, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4). Death, for a believer, is nothing but a shadow and a shadow has no sting!
   “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). They are now gone, because of Jesus’ resurrection and ultimately because He lives, there will come a day when, “There will be no more death” (Revelation 21:4). Hallelujah! Jesus’ resurrection is the death of death and that is something we should celebrate every day we live. 

Dear Lord, Today please help me to be mindful of and thankful for the victory You won for me when You burst forth from the grave. Truly, I need not fear anything, not even death, for You promised that because You are alive I too shall live (John 14:19)! ~ Amen

April 9, 2017


Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
~ Mark 11:9-10

   The significance of Jesus’ triumphal entry is highlighted by the fact it is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11: 1-11; Luke 19: 29-40; John 12: 12-19). Entering Jerusalem “on a colt, the foal of a donkey,” whereby fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, Jesus was publicly presenting Himself to the Jewish people as their Messiah-King.
   Jesus entered the city as King, surrounded by shouts of praise and for salvation. “Hosanna” was originally a prayer to God meaning, “Oh save us now.” The people “spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches” (Mark 11:8) which was an act of submission (2 Kings 9:13) and victory (Revelation 7:9). They cried out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” quoting Messianic Psalm 118:26 and undoubtedly believing the “the coming kingdom” had finally come and that their salvation would come from “the highest heaven” (Mark 11:10). Jesus knew their hearts and wept over the city before He entered it (Luke 19:14). The problem was that most of them wanted Jesus to save them from their Roman oppressors, not from their trespasses and sins. 
   He knew in only a few short days the chorus of praise would turn to a mob chant of “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13). Then they would beat, spit upon, insult and nail Messiah to a cross (Mark 15: 16-25) where He would die. When Jesus entered Jerusalem as King of the Jews He knew the cross was coming, but He also knew Easter would follow providing the greatest salvation of all. Hosanna, Oh save us now! Jesus is the only one who can answer that prayer for He is our salvation (Romans 10:9-10).

Dear Lord, This Easter season may my praise and my heart be united in the knowledge that my greatest enemy is sin and You alone are my salvation. 
You are Messiah, King of Kings and Lord or Lords! Praise Your Holy Name. ~ Amen

March 26, 2017

Our Perfect Home

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place
 for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. ~ John 14:2-3 (KJV)

   It was the third house my husband Ken and I viewed. After our tour of the house and the land, we stood at the kitchen island, looked at each other, and simultaneously said, “It’s like this house was built for us.” We went to closing, three days before Thanksgiving, feeling especially thankful.
   Fifteen years ago the former owners designed and built a retirement home for themselves. Now he has passed away, the widow has moved on, and strangers inhabit their labor of love. While it seems our new home was built for us, the reality is, it was not. And as perfect as it seems, we are already talking about things we would like to change!
   Let’s face it, here on earth there is no perfect home. However, in heaven there is a perfect home, built by nail pierced hands, for every true believer (John 12:2-3). Each “mansion” is a true labor of love. You see in Jewish culture, a son betrothed to a woman, would return to his father’s house to build a home for her. Once he had “prepared a place”, at his father’s appointed time, he would come again to take his bride home to be married and live with him forever. This is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus has done for us. 
   Hallelujah, our Savior, the lover of our souls, has prepared a place for us to live together, forever with Him! It is the perfect home; specifically built for you and me, no need to change a thing.

Dear Lord, I am so thankful for my earthly home, but even more grateful for my heavenly one which You have prepared for me. 
It is my perfect home, for it is my eternal home with You. ~ Amen

March 19, 2017


He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~ Psalm 46:10

   Most New Year’s resolutions wither into disillusions before spring arrives. However, a single word can break this cycle. Simply forget your resolutions and ask God to give you a word—one word, for the year. Your word becomes the lens through which to view your world, the filter through which to sift your experiences.
   Last year my word was “bold” (Proverbs 28:1), a frightening and powerful word that encapsulated everything I am not. This year God has given me a word that is everything my life is not: “still” (Psalm 46:10). Two very different words, one strong reality: both seemed impossible to me. 
   My hope was God would make my life still, so I could be still. However, to date that has not happened. From the frenzied chaos of settling into a new home to the premature birth of my first grandson, 2017 seems to be on a speed of light trajectory. At moments it is a struggle to hang on, let alone keep up. It is in those moments He whispers my word to me, “Still” (Psalm 46:10). Gently and slowly God is teaching me that through Him and in Him it is possible to be “still” inwardly, no matter what is happening outwardly. There in the stillness He quiets my heart with His love (Zephaniah 3:17) and comforts my mind with His peace (Philippians 4:7). When I am “still” within, I know that He is God and I am not. 
   There in the stillness He waits. Would you be bold enough to ask Him for your word this year? It could change everything. It could change you.

Dear Lord, You are the Word (John 1:1) and Your Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12 ESV). Give me a word for the year and help me to live it out on a daily basis, for my good and Your glory. ~ Amen

November 13,2016

Law and Love

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. ~ John 14:15 (ESV)

   The 2016 presidential election, whether as a Republican or Democrat, was agonizing for most of us. Honestly, because this election was so crucial and the candidates so dismal, it caused many to cover it in prayer like none other. The campaign and election rhetoric was largely about law and love; how one or the other candidate did or did not break the law and how one or the other candidate did or did not show love.
  Recently I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount, which ironically is also about law and love. Here Jesus takes moral law and sets the bar higher (Matthew 5:21-37). Likewise, He takes human love and raises the standard (Matthew 5:38-48). Jesus calls us to live by a higher law and exhibit a more perfect love. Divine law and love do not oppose one another, but rather fulfill one another. Jesus is our ultimate example.  
   A close look at Jesus’ ministry reveals His love for the outcast. In fact, He spent so much time with the “undesirables” of His day that He was ridiculed for being a “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Though merciful and loving, Jesus never condoned an immoral lifestyle. He pardoned the woman caught in adultery, but instructed her to “leave [her] life of sin” (John 8:11). 
   You see Jesus did not come to abolish the law with love; He came to fulfill it in love (Matthew 5:17). Law unfiltered by love leads to tyranny and love unbridled by law leads to debauchery. A balance of law and love is vital for us to be a true democracy as one nation under God. On November 8th our votes were cast and our next president elected. Our prayer should now be that both law and love would reign supreme in our new administration.

Dear Lord, A truly great nation is a Godly nation. Help me do my part to make our nation great by obeying Your higher law, 
and showing Your perfect love. ~ Amen

October 29,2016

Faith not Fear

He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. ~ Daniel 2:21

…God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords. ~ 1 Timothy 6:15

   It has been a long week. It began with the shocking news that a co-worker’s twelve-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It ended with the miraculous news that a friend of my husband’s, diagnosed with a brain tumor a month ago, had a MRI and the tumor is gone! We cannot always understand God’s ways, for His ways are as far above ours as the heavens are above the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9). However, we can always trust them.
   The truth is troubling news can be used to bring us to our knees and ultimately to bring glory to God. No doubt for many of us the impending election has weighed on our minds and hearts like a tumor threatening to choke our faith with fear. Watching the candidates or listening to the news can cause fear to grip us to our core. When that happens, it would do us well to ask God to increase our faith and to help us overcome our unbelief (Mark 9:24), for faith is the great antidote for fear.
  However, our faith is not to be misguided. Our faith is not to be in the candidates, the system, or our government for they are all flawed. Our faith is to be grounded in the King of kings and Lord of lords, the One who “deposes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:21). Our next president is no surprise to God, “for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). On November 9 we can be confident of this, no matter who gets to sit in the Oval Office, God still sits on the throne. Therein lays not only our faith, but our hope as well. 

Dear Lord, Truly You are “the blessed and only Ruler” for You are King of kings and Lord of lords. 
Help me to keep my faith in You. No matter who runs our country, may You alone rule my heart and life. ~ Amen

September 18, 2016

Running Aimlessly

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

   Running aimlessly gets us nowhere. Beating the air accomplishes nothing. Yet many of us live in this manner. We run through our days, darting from here to there, doing this or that, falling into bed at night weary from all the running around. Yet even in our sleep, our minds race, contemplating all we still have left to be done.
   While running aimlessly, we tend to battle the problems each day brings (Matthew 6:34) as though beating the air. We fight to be seen, to be heard, to get through, to get finished. We wrestle our way through the day, and as the sun sets, sink into bed exhausted from the fight and discouraged by the knowledge it is not over. 
   Oh, we need not live this way! We can run through our days with purpose, exhilarated by the things we see and the people we meet along the way. Running with heaven as our finish line, our race has meaning. We no longer run for ourselves. We run to help, to encourage, and to save others. Likewise, when we realize our battles are really spiritual (Ephesians 6:12), we will fight with the divine armor and weapon God has given us (Ephesians 6:13-17), confident that during our greatest battles the Lord fights for us (Deuteronomy 20:4).  
   Ultimately, we run and fight to bring glory to God. Self control is vital to run for such a high purpose and to fight for so lofty an honor. Thank God self control is a fruit of the Spirit which He grows in us (Galatians 5:22-23). How amazing and gracious that the One we run and fight for gives us what we need to win both the race and the battle! 

Dear Lord, I do not want to spend this day running aimlessly, or beating the air. Remind me of my purpose that I might run and fight in such a way as to get the prize. Help me this day to run and fight for You. ~ Amen

September 11, 2016

The “Survivor Tree”

“But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’" ~ Galatians 3:13

   This week marks fifteen years since the terror attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Hopefully, we will never forget that day, the thousands of lives lost, and the countless heroes who rose from the dust and rumble. Truly, as tragic as it was amazing stories of unwavering courage, selfless sacrifice, and miraculous rescues, kept us from losing hope in the face of unspeakable evil.
   This past February, my dear friend, Cynthia and I had the privilege of visiting Ground Zero and hearing stories we had never heard before, like the story of the “Survivor Tree.” It was a month after the attacks, in the midst of the lingering rumble, that a Callery pear tree was discovered severely battered from the fallen towers with roots snapped and branches burned and broken. It was removed from the site and nursed back to health by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, then placed between the location the two towers at the center of the Memorial in 2010. The tree’s past and present are distinctly visible where new limbs have grown from distorted stumps. It stands today as a poignant reminder of resilience, endurance, and rebirth.
   Likewise, for the believer, the cross stands as a reminder of the same things, for Christ hung upon the tree (Galatians 3:13) and endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2) so that we might be born again (Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23). His suffering has brought us life (1 Peter 3:18) and we would do well to remember the cross, that we might keep Christ at the center of our hearts and lives. Ultimately, He is the One who not only enables us to survive, but thrive, when the world comes crashing down on us.  

Dear Lord, As I remember with a somber heart the events of 911 help me to focus on the promise the “Survivor Tree” represents and the cross ultimately fulfills: rebirth is possible even in the most horrific of circumstances and no matter the depths of my sin. ~ Amen

September 4, 2016

The Blessing of Work

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ~ Genesis 2:15

   This week as we celebrate Labor Day, let us not forget that work is a blessing. While at times work may seem like a part of the curse; it is not. The truth is, God did curse the ground, making Adam’s work harder (Genesis 3:14-19), but work actually originated prior to the fall (Genesis 2:15).
   You see, work was part of the blessing of paradise. This fact should not be surprising to us, because we are created in God’s image and Jesus said, “…My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). The reality is we are the work of God and God has work for us to do. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Every Christian has important and eternal work to accomplish. The question is, “Are we doing it?”
   Sometimes, in our desire to do great works for God, we forget that it is not so much what work we do, as it is who we are working for. Scripture tells us to do all things for God and for His glory (1 Corinthians 2:31). The reason being, when we do even small works, like giving a cup of cold water, it has eternal value (Matthew 10:42).  
   Jesus brought His Father glory on the earth by finishing the work God had given Him to do (John 17:4). May we do the same, for what greater blessing is there than to bring glory to God by working for Him, no matter what work we do. 

Dear Lord, Help me to see work as a blessing. Enable me to work, not for my boss or even for myself today, 
but rather to work for You and to bring You glory in the process. ~ Amen

July 31, 2016

The Only Way to Run

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24

   While in “strict training” (1 Corinthians 9:25) for a 5K on July 4th, the thought of actually winning never crossed my mind. I just wanted to finish strong, which I had failed to accomplish two years ago.
   My friend, Liza, ran with me in 2014. Once the race started she had me pick someone to beat, but when the finish line was in view the woman picked was beating me. Liza coaxed me to “pour it on” insisting I could still beat her. Poorly trained and drained, I simply could not do it.  
   This year’s race would be different. I picked the woman to beat and most of the race I had the advantage. Then with less than a mile to the finish line, I heard the strong, hard, and fast pounding of feet hitting pavement coming up behind me. I looked back and my heart screamed, “No!” as I saw the woman quickly approaching me. My heart sank as she passed me.
   I wanted to “pour it on” and go ahead of her, but knew I could not keep it up to the finish line. So I prayed and kept my pace. I had trained well and I could finish strong. Trusting God and my training, I waited until I knew I could cross the finish line strong, and then I poured it on. Soon I was overtaking the woman and passing her! She tried to keep up, but had been running too hard for too long. I gave it a little more and crossed the finish line seconds ahead of her. No, I had not won the race, but I had won my race! Running to win is the only way to run! 

Dear Lord, Please keep me from simply running through life. Help me to “run in such a way as to get the prize.” Thank You for dying to ensure I win the race and get the prize. Truly I can run confidently knowing I already have “the prize,” for it is eternal life with You! ~ Amen

July 17, 2016

Strict Training

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, 
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:25

   Running is hard. I know personally, because two years ago I ran my first 5K. My time was poor; my finish unimpressive. The problem was my training. Oh, I started off gung-ho, running in thirty second, then one minute intervals. The issue was the longer I trained, the longer I had to run. It was hard work; so conveniently, life kept getting in the way of training.
    Race day found me ill prepared, with unfortunate results inevitable. There was no “crown” for me, though I reached the two goals I had set for myself: 1) to cross the finish line, 2) not to be the last person to do so. Maybe I should have set higher goals, but definitely I should have gone “into strict training.”  
   The Greek word for “competes,” in 1 Corinthians 9:25, is “agonizomai” meaning “to struggle.” Competition can be agonizing and preparing for it can be as well. It is interesting that the Greek word for “strict training” means “exercising self-control” and has more to do with self-restraint then self-exertion, in this context. 
   This year, for ten weeks, I went “into strict training” to prepare for my second 5K, which I ran July 4th. Two things I learned in training are to keep my head up and my mind’s eye fixed on the finish line. It makes all the difference, not only in running, but in living the Christian life as well. 
   It is easy to be a spectator. It is hard to be a competitor. Spectators watch. Only competitors strive to win. As believers we “get a crown that will last forever.” Therefore, let us go “into strict training” running our race with heads up and eyes fixed on our crowning glory—Jesus. 

Dear Lord, Life, like any competition, is a struggle. Therefore, help me to go into strict training daily, that I might run my race 
for “a crown that will last forever,” confident that You have already guaranteed my victory. ~ Amen

July 3, 2016

One Nation Under God

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. ~ Deuteronomy 4:39

   This week we celebrate the birth of our nation, the United States of America. The labor was long “…can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” (Isaiah 66:8). The birth was painful as George Washington stated “. . . you might have tracked the army from White Marsh to Valley Forge by the blood of their feet.”
   History has it that during the darkest days at Valley Forge, George Washington could be found kneeling in earnest prayer. The painting The Prayer at Valley Forge (pictured), by American artist, Arnold Friberg (1913-2010), powerfully captures such a moment. Obviously, the future first president of our great nation believed the last words of the Declaration of Independence “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
  We are a nation rooted in faith and God has blessed America. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “one nation under God”. Our national anthem declares, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust’”. Our currency is stamped with the testimony “In God We Trust” which by Act of Congress legally became our national motto on July 30, 1956! 
   A lot has changed in little over half a century. Sadly, many Americans have forgotten God, the very foundation on which our nation was built. However, this fact will never change “the LORD is God…There is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39) and He is over all (Psalm 47:2). 

Dear Lord, Thank You that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. 
Today I bow in prayer for my country and ask You to heal our land. Bring us back to You. ~ Amen

June 19, 2016

Growing Up

…unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matthew 18:3
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. ~ 1 Peter 2:2-3

   Recently while fighting a cold and overly tired “the baby” in me came out in a big way. While a newborn baby is adorable, an adult acting like one is not! Afterwards as I wept in prayer over my behavior, it was as if my loving heavenly Father took me in His arms. Only God knows how emotionally broken and wounded I am and is ever patient and gentle in the healing process. That night He rocked me in the cradle of His Word and reminded me that we actually are called to have childlike faith and to crave pure spiritual milk like a baby.
    In childlike faith, we are to believe Almighty God for the impossible. In childlike faith, we are to follow the Good Shepherd’s lead, confident He knows the way. In childlike faith, we are to obey our heavenly Father, trusting His laws are ultimately for our good. The more we become childlike in our faith, the more it will grow. Likewise, we are to be like babies craving pure spiritual milk.  
   We are to cry out to our Father when we are hungry and thirsty. We are to cry out to our Father to meet our needs first, before we cry out to others. Crying out to God first, enables us to grow up in our salvation; and in the process it takes our loved ones off the hook. No matter how much they love us, they cannot meet all our needs, for the cavern of our need is way too deep. 
   Only God can meet all our needs and do it abundantly—according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). Only God can cause “the baby” in us to grow up. Yet even as we grow, we remain the children of God—because let’s face it, no matter how old we get, we still need our Daddy.  

Abba Father, help me to have the faith of a child and to cry out like a newborn baby to You to fill all my needs. 
Thank You for understanding how hard it is to grow up and for being the One who enables me to grow. ~ Amen

June 12,2016

Awakening to Our Call

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” ~ Luke 15:31-32

   The prodigal son was awakened to his own unworthiness while in a pig pen, “So he got up and went to his father” (Luke 15:20a), beautifully illustrating his awakening to God.
   Once home he never even got to finish his rehearsed speech of repentance, because his father ran to him, covered him with kisses, clothed him in “the best robe,” killed the fattened calf, and ordered a feast of celebration (v. 20-23). However, we soon realize the older son, who in “all these years” had been “slaving for” and “never disobeyed” his father, was in need of a great awakening too (v. 29a)!
   The older brother “became angry and refused to go in” and celebrate, because he was busy weighing what his father had not done for him, compared to what his father was doing for the prodigal (v. 28). “You never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends,” he whined to his father (v. 29b). It seems this son had been working in his father’s fields for so long, he had forgotten why he was working in the first place.  
   His father had to gently remind him “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours,” and that the greatest work is to celebrate when those who are lost are found (v. 31)! We are left to decide for ourselves whether or not the older son ever went into the celebration. I believe he did, because there is nothing like a heart to heart talk with the Father to awaken us to our call to love the lost and rejoice when they come home.  

Dear Lord, The fields are ripe unto harvest and as I work for You awaken me to my call to love others 
and rejoice in their salvation. And when my work appears to be in vain, help me to remember 
You are always with me and all You have is mine. ~ Amen

May 29, 2016

Memorial Day

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ~ John 8:36

   This week we remember those who have given their lives for our freedom. Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who died. Since then millions of others have fought and died that you and I might continue to live free.
   Retired Air Force Colonel Walter Hitchcock, surely spoke the truth when he said; “Freedom is not free.” Freedom comes at a great price in both the physical and spiritual realm. Thomas Jefferson said, "The Tree of Liberty is watered with the blood of every generation." Likewise, spiritually speaking, it can be said the “Tree of Liberty” is watered with the blood of our Savior. 
   It is sad, but true, that in the physical realm our freedom will always be in the balance. There will always be dark forces that threaten our liberty and devise plans to attack and take it from us. Wars have been part of the landscape of history since time began and it will be so until time is no more. However, in the spiritual realm our freedom is secure, for when Christ sets us free, we are “free indeed” (John 8:36). The Greek translation of “indeed” in this verse literally means, “truly, in reality, in point of fact.” No more blood ever needs to be spilled to guarantee our spiritual freedom, because the blood of Christ is enough. 
  This Memorial Day as we remember those who have died for our freedom, let us not forget the One who died to make us free eternally. 

Dear Lord, Thank You for the secure eternal freedom Your shed blood and death afford me. 
May everyday be a Memorial Day to You and the sacrifice You made for me. ~ Amen

May 22,2016

Awakening to God

…But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; 
he ran to his son,  threw his arms around him and kissed him. ~ Luke 15:20b

  The prodigal son was awakened to his own unworthiness, “So he got up and went to his father” (Luke 15:20a). Spiritually, awakening to our own unworthiness and awakening to God happen simultaneously, for knowing our need of a Savior prompts us to seek Him, and the journey home is never as far as we fear it will be.
   The prodigal’s journey home was shortened, because “while he was still a long way off” his father saw him, had compassion on him and ran to him! The father saw his son, because he was looking for him; knowing he would come home. It is no different with God. When our hearts are turned toward home we will never have to go searching for our heavenly Father, for He will always see us coming and run to us, wrap us in His arms and cover us with kisses!  
   Oh please, get the picture here, for it is a beautiful one! In the Greek the word “ran” is defined as “running a course”, “embraced” (KJV) is defined as “embrace with affection or seize”, and “kissed” is defined as “to kiss again and again.” Now imagine God seeing you from a distance, sprinting toward you with eyes locked on you, and then when He reaches you, scooping you up in a bear hug and covering your face with kisses! That is the lavish love for which every broken heart longs and it is ours in God.  
   The prodigal son acknowledged his unworthiness, and his father clothed him with the “best robe,” and declared a celebration (Luke 15:22-24). Imagine that! God not only runs to us, He celebrates us. Now that is a great awakening!  

Dear Lord, To realize how lavishly You love me is not only a great awakening, but a sweet one as well! 
Truly it takes my breath away and makes me never want to leave home again. ~ Amen

May 8, 2016

Motherly Advice

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." ~ John 2:5

  This week as we celebrate Mother’s Day, it is fitting to look at the last recorded words in Scripture of Mary, mother of Jesus. “Do whatever he tells you,” are five simple, yet profound words to live by and some of the best advice mothers can give their children. However, before our children can follow the priceless advice to do whatever God tells them, there are some prerequisites they need to know.
   First, they must expect to hear God speak. He has been speaking to mankind since the beginning of time and He will continue speaking throughout eternity. One of the main ways God speaks today is through His Word, for it is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, they should read the Bible expecting to hear from God.
  Second, they must listen so as to hear from God. Listening requires stillness, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). This age of constant communication has made our children technological geniuses, but terrible listeners! If we want our children to listen to God, they need to be encouraged to have times of being still.
   Finally, they must recognize the voice of God. We recognize the voices of those closest to us; of those we know the best. If we want our children to recognize God's voice when He speaks, they need to know Him through His Word.
   There are many voices vying for our children’s attention. May Godly mothers arise and do our best to encourage our children to expect to hear from God, and to listen, and recognize His voice. Then they can "Do whatever he tells" them, and the results will be miraculous!

Dear Lord, I know my most important job as a mother is to teach my children about You. Please help me as I help my children learn how to hear 
and heed Your voice, so they will indeed do whatever You tell them. ~ Amen

May 1, 2016

Awakening to Our Unworthiness

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘…I will… go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants’. ~ Luke 15:17-19 

   Recently I left church pondering the “great awakenings” of life and boiled it down to three: awakening to our unworthiness, awakening to God, and awakening to our call. While they are three distinct awakenings, I believe the first two happen simultaneously.
   Awakening to our unworthiness is perfectly illustrated in the story of the prodigal son. The younger of two sons disrespects his father by asking for his inheritance, while his father is still alive. Graciously, his father gives it to him. Once he has it, he leaves home and squanders all his wealth. After spending everything, there is a famine in the land, and “he began to be in need” (Luke 15:14). So he takes a job feeding pigs, an utter disgrace for a Jew! However, even more disgraceful than feeding pigs, he soon begins to envy them (Luke 15:16)!  
   The prodigal son had hit rock bottom, and it was there while wallowing with the pigs, he finally “came to his senses” (Luke 15:17). His great awakening to his unworthiness came in a pig pen! It was a rude awakening, but a sweet one as well, because it led him back to his father, back home to where he belonged. He left arrogantly; he would return humbly. He left full of himself; he would return at the end of himself. He left feeling worthy of more; he would return realizing he was unworthy of all his father had given him.
   Doing things our own sinful way will figuratively land us in a pig pen, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. But…even there, God can graciously awaken us to our unworthiness, and turn our hearts toward home, and Him.  

Dear Lord, Thank You for awakening me to my unworthiness for by it I see my desperate need for You. 
Left to my our devises and choices I end up in the pig pen every time, but You graciously bring me to my senses
 and call me home, where I belong. ~ Amen

April 24, 2016

Face to Face

…I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face,  so that our joy may be complete. ~ 2 John 12

   Truly the apostle John understood the value and blessing of talking with someone “face to face.” He had written a letter, but it fell short of conveying all he had to say. Therefore, he longed for a “face to face” conversation.
    Last week I had the blessing of visiting my sister, Patti and my niece, Shannon and her family in Maryland. It had been six months since our last visit. Patti picked me up from the airport and we went to dinner, as is our custom. Sitting across the table from one another we began to share some of our struggles, triumphs, and dreams. This sharing continued throughout my visit. 
   The next day we saw Shannon. I noticed she was wearing a pair of earrings I had given to her, which made me happy. She shared with me about making the decision to go back to school, which made me proud. Blessings continued as I saw the smile on her two-year-old son Abel’s face as he said, “Hi Aunt Bonnie!” as clear as a bell! But truly, the night before I headed home, my joy was made complete when her ten-year-old daughter Ava, offered up a heart-felt prayer before dinner.  
   It was a joy to visit with my family "face to face." There is a level of intimacy in talking with someone "face to face" that all the conveniences of modern communication cannot equal. A text or a tweet can never take the place of a heart to heart, face to face conversation and an email or a voicemail will never convey the warmth and support of an actual hug. So this week, let us purpose to visit with someone "face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Dear Lord, You are a God of relationship and one day I will see You face to face
 (1 Corinthians 13:12), but until then help me to build relationships here face to face. 
True face to face communion is complete joy. ~ Amen

April 10, 2016

The Power of Encouragement

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. ~ Hebrews 3:13

   Most of us have a daily routine of activities, but it is doubtful encouraging others is one of them. And yet, according to Scripture, it should be (Hebrews 3:13). My dear friend, Cynthia once told me that encouragement is to give courage. I wholeheartedly agree.
  Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. It is common for me to be nervous, weighted by both the blessing and responsibility of teaching from God’s Holy Word. However, for this particular conference I was particularly nervous, even fearful. I prayed earnestly that morning for the Lord to give me courage, for I simply could not do what was required of me on my own. Having been terribly sick a few weeks prior, and playing catch up at work and home just days before, I walked into the church feeling ill prepared, and honestly trembling at the thought of teaching about the Great I AM. 
   God answered my prayer through a precious young woman who greeted me with hugs and tears. She spoke praise over me on how God had used the words He’d given me at a conference four years ago to bring her back into a right relationship with Him. She spoke blessing over me and my ministry. Finally, she spoke encouragement over me telling me she knew it must be hard and tiring, but my obedience in allowing God to use me was truly making a difference in people’s lives. Her uplifting words gave me courage and God did a marvelous work among us!
   So I encourage you to encourage someone today and every day! God can and will use it in a mighty way.  

Dear Lord, Help me to encourage someone today with a smile, kind words or a hug. 
May I make a habit of encouraging others on a daily basis, all for Your honor and glory. ~ Amen

March 27,2016

The Stone Was Rolled Away For You and Me!

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 
~ Matthew 28:2

   Only two earthquakes are recorded in the gospels—one after Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51-54); the other after Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 28:2). The quake after His crucifixion, at that moment, broke open the tombs of many holy people who were raised bodily from the dead (Matthew 27:52-53).
   However, the scenario is quite different for the resurrection of the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. Read Matthew 28: 1-11 and see Christ’s tomb was empty before the stone was rolled away! We must understand the stone was not rolled away to let Christ out—it was rolled away to let the women, His disciples, and the world in! 
   When the women told Peter and John of the empty tomb, the disciples raced to see it for themselves—John arrived first, but stopped at the entrance. Peter sped right past John and into the tomb (John 20:3-7). However, when John finally entered the tomb, he suddenly “perceived” with his heart what the empty tomb was evidence of, and believed Christ was resurrected (John 20:8). 
   This Easter let us, like Mary Magdalene, look at the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1) and be filled with joy by what we see (Matthew 28:8)—the stone rolled away for you and for me! Let us, like John, not simply understand with our minds, but rather perceive with our whole hearts the truth that Jesus is alive!
   To truly grasp this is to respond to the living GOD, just as the women did that first Easter morn, by falling at His feet and worshiping Him (Matthew 28:9), for He has risen just as He said He would (Matthew 26:6)!  

My Glorious, Risen Savior, I worship You not just for what You have done, but simply because of Who You are! 
You are the Living God, the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Hallelujah! ~ Amen

March 20, 2016

The Seven Words (Part 2)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ~ Mark 15:34
“I am thirsty.” ~ John 19:28
“It is finished!” ~ John 19:30
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” ~ Luke 23:46​

   The fourth word Jesus spoke from the cross is perhaps the most painful, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Echoing the words of David in Psalm 22, Jesus experiences the hell of separation from God, for “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Who can fathom the mystery or majesty of this truth: God forsaking Himself for the salvation of the world?
   The fifth word of Jesus might appear to be nothing more than a physical reality, “I am thirsty.” However, He spoke these words “so that Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 19:28). The soldiers responded by offering Him sour wine (John 19:29) and in doing so Psalm 69:21 was fulfilled, “…they offer me sour wine for my thirty” (NLT). 
   The sixth word, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) is a declaration of victory. The work of salvation was complete. Jesus had accomplished His mission and done exactly what He came to earth to do; die for our sins and give us His life in return. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.  
   Jesus’ seventh and last word is to His Father, and again He quotes Scripture (Psalm 31:5), “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Read all of Psalm 31:5 and see that Jesus is not simply entrusting His future to His Father, but is implying He will be delivered and exonerated. Jesus not only points us back to the familiar sufferings of David, but forward to the resurrection! You see, the Seven Words are above all, words of hope, for Easter is coming!

Dear Lord, You died as You lived, loving others and glorifying Your Father. Oh Jesus, now that You live within me please help me to do the same. 
I need not fear death in this life, for it is but the beginning of everlasting life with You. ~ Amen

March 13, 2016

The Seven Words (Part 1)

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” ~ Luke 23:34
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 
“Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” ~ John 19:26-27

  Easter is on the horizon. However, the only way to the glory of Easter is through the agony of the cross. Jesus made seven final statements during His crucifixion. These brief sayings, also called The Seven Words, hold deep significance, for they offer a glimpse into the depth of His suffering to accomplish redemption, His unconditional love for others, and His divine connection with the Father. 
   First, Jesus speaks to the Father, and we see His heart (Luke 23:34). Even in His deepest pain Jesus’ heart was focused on others and their relationship to the Father. His prayer of forgiveness on behalf of those driving nails into His hands and feet is a testament to the divine and unconditional nature of His love. Furthermore, “Who knows what a Niagara of divine wrath was averted by this prayer” (Believer’s Bible Commentary p. 1455). 
  Secondly, Jesus speaks to the criminal crucified with Him who expressed faith in Him as Savior (Luke 23:43). Jesus comforts the dying man with the assurance of his forgiveness and eternal salvation. Truly, for that criminal, death would soon be “swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Again, in the midst of excruciating suffering, Jesus’ focus is on others and not Himself. 
   Thirdly, Jesus looks down from the cross and sees Mary, and we see the heart of a son concerned with the earthly needs of His mother (John 19:26-27). None of His brothers are there to care for her, so He gives the task to the Apostle John. Once again, the needs of others supersede His own. The passion of the cross shows the passionate love Jesus has for us. No wonder we call His Grace Amazing!  

Dear Lord, It is amazing grace that as You hung upon the cross You were thinking of others. It is amazing grace that You went to the cross to secure my salvation. So could it be that even in Your suffering You were thinking of me? Now that is amazing grace! ~ Amen

Lord of the Dance

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. ~ Psalm 30:11

   Last week my three-year-old granddaughter, Scarlett, started taking dance lessons. Initially nervous, she clung to her mom. However, as the music played and the dancing started, she crept ever so slowly from her mom’s lap to the dance floor. It took awhile, but eventually she was spinning and twirling, jumping and leaping. Scarlett was dancing! And as she danced she frequently looked at her mom, who clapped and smiled and cheered her on. It was beautiful to watch.
   The reality was that with all the other people in the room, Scarlett was dancing for her mom. She loves to dance at home and even there looks to see who is watching, for she wants to dance for someone, not just herself. She dances out of sheer joy and there is great joy in watching her dance! I have even had the privilege of being invited to join in her dance, as she takes my hands and says, “Omi, dance with me!” I never refuse and as we dance together her joy becomes my joy.
   Likewise, God who rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17) must get great joy from watching us dance, for it is He who turns our “wailing into dancing” and clothes us “with joy.” David danced before the Lord with all his might (2 Samuel 6:14). The prodigal son’s return was celebrated with a great feast and dancing (Luke 15:23-25). We are admonished to praise God with, music, song, and dance (Psalm 149:3, 150:4). So the next time you find yourself dancing around your house look up, and remember where true joy comes from. No doubt the Lord of the Dance Himself will be watching you with great joy. 

Dear Lord, You give me reason to dance for You give me joy. Help me to dance with joy for You more often, 
knowing it brings You joy to watch me dance. ~ Amen

February 28, 2016

Loving God

Jesus said, “…Do you love me more than these?” ~ John 21:15, 16, 17

   The month of love has drawn to a close. During it we have looked at God’s love for us, but a true love relationship is reciprocal. Therefore, as the cold chill of February gives way to the warmer days of March, it is fitting to look at our love for God.
   Jesus asked nearly two hundred questions recorded in the gospels. One of the last questions He asked was, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15, 16, 17) A very compelling question, especially since Jesus asked it repeatedly, three times in a row! The temptation is to not personalize the question, because Jesus asked it specifically of Peter. However, we would do well to look at every question Jesus asked and examine our honest answers. 
   So do you love Jesus more than these? Do I? Most of us would not hesitate to say we love God. The hesitation comes when our love is measured by the qualifier “more than these.” The honest answer to Jesus’ pointed question for me is, “No, not all the time.” Jesus loves us most and wants us to love Him most in return. His desire is not because He is a narcissistic God, but because He knows when we love Him most, it is ultimately, for our best and His glory.  
   The God of love knows that when we love Him most, we are then able to truly love and care for others better. That is why when Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” Jesus responded by telling him to feed and take care of His sheep (John 21:15, 16, 17). It is a divine truth that to love others best, we must love God most. 

Dear Lord, You love me most and I often love other people and things more than You.
 Forgive me and please help me to love You most today. ~ Amen

February 14, 2016

Our Perfect Valentine

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~ Ephesians 3:17-19

   Love is in the air and decorative hearts are everywhere! Still there are those who feel unloved! On Valentine’s Day they expect no card; no candy; no flowers. Yet, the greatest love letter ever written could well be sitting on their bookshelf or night stand unopened. They have yet to receive or perhaps have lost sight of the perfect Valentine that Christ bought and painted crimson with His blood. Dying to win our hearts, He offers His love with the sweet whisper, “Be mine.”
   Do you know God loves you? The apostle John knew God’s love for him. His gospel and three epistles are like a symphony of love with the word love or its derivative used 102 times. The symphony begins with the dramatic first note of John 3:16. The echo of that love note has resounded throughout every generation from the time it was first written until the present day. No doubt it is a note that will be heard through all eternity.
   “God so loved the world he gave…” (John 3:16), are undoubtedly some of the most recognizable and powerful words of Christ. Love gives and as John walked with Jesus day after day he saw that lived out over and over again. Jesus gave sight to the blind (John 9:1-11). He gave healing to the invalid (John 5:2-9). He gave bread to the multitude (John 6:1-13). He gave life to the dead (John 11:1-45). He gave glory to the Father (John 17:1-5) and ultimately He gave His life for the sins of the world (John 19). He gave His life out of love. This year let Christ be your Valentine. He died to make you His.

Dear Lord, help me grasp the magnitude of Your incomprehensible love for me. ~ Amen

February 7, 2016

Lavish Love

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! ~ 1 John 3:1

   Love is not just something we all want (Proverbs 19:22), it is something we all need. Love is the greatest thing (1 Corinthians 13:13). It puts a skip in our step, a smile on our face, a sparkle in our eyes, and a song in our heart. Being in love and being loved in return is a wonderful thing.
    It is even more wonderful in a spiritual context, for God is deeply and passionately in love with you and me! When we are in love with someone we long to be with them. God gave His only Son that we might be with Him eternally (John 3:16). When we are in love with someone we listen to them, loving the very sound of their voice. God not only listens to our prayers, He delights in them (1 John 5:14; Proverbs 15:8). When we love someone we take care of them. God meets all our needs (Philippians 4:19). When we love someone we will fight for them. God fights for us and will ultimately win the war (Deuteronomy 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:8). 
   “See what great love the Father has lavished on us…”! The agape love of the Father is literally a love feast; it is love laid out in a multitude of ways. It is love “lavished” or abundantly poured out on us to the point it takes our breath away. It is perfect love.
   This month which is deemed the “Month of Love” may we see anew the Father’s “great love” for us, and may it put a skip in our step, a smile on our face, a sparkle in our eyes and a song in our heart!

Dear Lord, Love is a wonderful thing and to know that You are in love with me is more than amazing. 
Help me today to see Your great love for me and empower me to love You more and more in return. ~ Amen

January 27, 2016

Divine Imitation

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, 
because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” ~ John 5:19

   I have the joy of watching Scarlett, my granddaughter, most every Saturday. Quite often God uses her to teach me spiritual lessons. A couple Saturdays ago was such an occasion.
   When I walked through the door, Miss Scarlett (as I call her) was excited to see me. She grabbed my hand, trying to lead me into her bedroom to play, before I could even put my stuff down or take off my coat. I told her she had to wait. She stood in the kitchen, with a pouty face, as I took care of my stuff. It reminded me of how often I pout at God when He tells me to wait! 
   The greater lesson I learned came at lunch time. As I held Miss Scarlett’s hand to say grace, she did the most precious thing: she mumbled through my whole prayer, trying to repeat all my words, and then ended with a confident, “Amen!” Whenever I took a spoonful of food, she did too. When I sat back in my chair, she did too. Finally, when I pushed my plate away from me, leaned back and sighed in satisfaction of a full belly, she did too. Whatever I did she did and it made my heart and soul smile! 
   Driving home I pictured Miss Scarlett imitating me and laughed out loud in delight. Then Jesus’ words in John 5:19 came to mind. How it must bless the Father’s heart whenever we imitate Him! Whenever we love, provide, forgive or show kindness to others, we are being like Him (Ephesians 5:1 NLT). We are divine imitators who cause our Father to smile as well.  

Dear Lord, Make me more like Jesus. Teach me to do the things You did. 
Today please help me to be a divine imitator who brings joy to You and love to others. ~ Amen

January 10, 2016

Word for the Year

The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. ~ Proverbs 28:1

   A couple of years ago one of my sister Patti’s friends encouraged her to pick a word for the year—just one word, to focus on and filter decisions through. Patti chose the word “daring.” That year she dared to apply for Nurses for Africa. She was accepted and in 2015, her trip to Zambia fulfilled a lifelong dream.
   Words are powerful and Jesus is the Word, so it should not have surprised me that this is such a powerful concept! A concept the Lord kept bringing to my mind ever since Patti told me about it. Finally, this year I relented and asked Him to give me my word for the year. Almost immediately the word “bold” thundered through my mind, soul and spirit. This word frightened me because it represents everything I am not. I tried bargaining with God for another word, until Cynthia, my mentor and dear friend, showed me Proverbs 28:1.  
   Bold or “batach” in the Hebrew means “to trust, to be confident, secure, sure.” Who would not want to be those things? And to be “bold as a lion” clarifies the type of boldness all believers, including myself, are to have. A lion is the king of the jungle and Lord knows it is a jungle out there! What is interesting is that the Hebrew word for lion is derived from “kaphar” which means “to cover, make an atonement, make reconciliation.” No wonder Jesus is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5)! You see, “the righteous” are made bold through Him, in order to be bold for Him. 
   So “bold” is my word for the year. What’s yours?

Dear Lord, Thank You for being the Word. Please give me a word from You that I might live out for You this year. ~ Amen

Newer than New

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said,
 “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ~ Revelation 21:5

   New can be exciting! That is why we proudly announce getting a new car or house; cannot help but wear a new outfit or pair of shoes; and immediately turn on a new electronic device or gadget. Often we even take special care of the new, in hopes of keeping it that way, for as long as possible. However, in this life, with use and time, the new is destined to become old, and can make us long once more for the new. That is why each New Year is so wonderful, for it brings with it a renewed sense of beginning and promise, purpose and endless possibilities.
   While pondering the wonder of this New Year, God kept bringing me back to the miraculous reality that He has already made me “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the glorious promise that one day He will make “everything new” (Revelation 21:5). The word “new” in the Greek is “kainos” , meaning “of uncertain affinity”. The "new” of God is unlike anything else! God’s new is unprecedented and is a better new than we could ever create or imagine. It is newer than new, and that is very, very good.
   Therefore, as believers, let us not only look forward to this New Year with hope, but also look forward to the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25) when we will be given a “new name” (Revelation 2:17), and we will hear a “new song” (Revelations 5:9; Revelations 14:3) in a “new heaven” and “new earth” (Revelation 21:1), and the “new” of God will stay “new” for all eternity, for time will be no more.

Dear Lord, Thank You for making me a new creature and for the promise that one Day You will make everything new! 
Help me to look forward to that Day, as much as I look forward to this New Year. ~ Amen

December 27, 2015

Christmas Is Not Over

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, 
and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). ~ Matthew 1:22-23

   It is the Sunday after Christmas; just two days have passed since the official holiday. After church, during two separate conversations with two different women, I received the same response when I asked them, “How was your Christmas?” They both said, without hesitation, “Good, but I’m glad it’s over.” I mulled over those words on the drive home, and I must admit that things got a little crazy in the Merrill household this year preparing for Christmas and sad but true I did indeed feel relief when it was over. This should not be!
   The reality is that we can let the preparations, expectations, and traditions of Christmas exhaust us to the point that the Spirit of Christmas is crowded out, quenched, and even lost. If that happened to you this Christmas, do not despair for Christmas is not over! Oh December 25, 2015 has come and gone, but the Spirit of Christmas goes on and on and on for all eternity, for the Spirit of Christmas is Immanuel, which means God with us!
   Singer/song writer Michael Card expressed this beautifully at a Christmas concert in Brunswick, ME that I was blessed to go to. Before singing his song entitled Immanuel, he talked of how being with us is God’s greatest desire, and it meets our greatest need. From the Garden to the Law, from the Tabernacle to the Temple, from the Manger to the Cross, from Earth to the New Jerusalem God displays His longing to be with you and me, and because of Christmas, because of Immanuel, He is and always will be. So, you see, Christmas is not over! Thank God!

Dear Lord, How amazing that You so long to be with me and view me with such worth, that You would send Jesus, Your One and Only Son to earth! Born to die that I might live! Eternal life the gift You give! Thank You that Christmas does not end because of Immanuel, my Savior and friend! ~ Amen

December 13, 2015

The Reason for the Season

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. ~ Luke 2: 10-11 (KJV)

   Merry Christmas is not a popular sentiment these days. Nevertheless, Christ has always been and always will be at the forefront of “Christ”mas, because He alone is what Christmas is all about.
   Jesus is the reason for the season, whether or not we recognize or acknowledge it. The Lord brought this home to me after running into a friend while out shopping. I joined her search to find “Jesus stuff” in the Christmas section of a store. Sadly, there was no “Jesus stuff” to be found.
   Driving home complaining about the commercialization of this sacred holiday, the Lord urged me to stop grumbling and start remembering Him, despite all the distractions of the season. Since then what Jesus has ultimately been teaching me is that it is all “Jesus stuff”, because all the things that keep me busy this season can actually help remind me what Christmas is really all about. Ribbons, wrapping paper, and bows can help me remember that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (Luke 2:7), mirroring the birth of the sacrificial lambs, because He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
   Lights, trees and wreaths can remind me that Jesus is the Light of the World (John 9:5) who came to bring us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). He hung upon the “perfect tree” for us, that we might have eternal life (1 Peter 2:24). He also can be represented by the circle of the wreath, which has no beginning and no end (Revelation 1:8). Finally all gifts, both those given and received, can be a remembrance that Jesus is the greatest gift of all. 

Dear Lord, Thank You for coming to this earth to pursue and offer me the gift of salvation. Help me remember, during this hectic holiday, that You are the reason for the season. ~ Amen

November 29, 2015

The Great Exchange

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them
a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair… ~ Isaiah 61:3

   It is powerfully poignant that God exchanges “a crown” of beauty for ashes, “the oil” of joy for mourning, and “a garment” of praise for the spirit of despair. The ancient Jews were a very demonstrative people. Three outward signs of mourning in ancient Jewish culture were to pour ashes over one’s head, refrain from anointing oneself with oil, and the putting on sackcloth.
   These were outward displays of internal pain and grief. Ashes are all that remains from something brunt up, destroyed, unsalvageable. Ashes are messy, dirty and black. Therefore, seeing someone with ashes poured over their head was not a pretty sight. Jesus wants to exchange the ashes on the mourners head for “a crown of beauty”. 
   Oil was a hot commodity in the ancient Near East and a symbol of joy (Psalm 45:7). It was used to refresh and protect the skin from the hot, dry climate. People typically mourned outside and openly. Therefore, to refrain from anointing oneself with oil was to be subjected to the scorching dryness of the dessert. It was also a declaration of joylessness. Jesus wants to exchange the mourner’s joylessness for the “oil of joy” fullness.  
   Sackcloth was a garment shaped either as a loose fitting sack placed over the shoulders or a loincloth. It was made from of course material fashioned from goat or camel hair. Therefore, it was an itchy and uncomfortable to wear. Jesus wants to exchange the mourners sackcloth with “a garment of praise” tailored made especially for them.  
   You see, the Lord wants to exchange all the outward signs that display mourning with inward signs that display His splendor.

Dear Lord, Thank You for being the God of the great exchange. You exchange my sin for Your grace, and my mourning for Your beauty, joy, and praise. 
Truly, You are an awesome God. ~ Amen

November 22, 2015

The Thankful One

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him… ~ Luke 17:15-16

   Jesus was traveling between Samaria and Galilee when ten lepers standing at a distance cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (v.11-13). The lepers kept their distance because they were considered unclean. They were literally untouchable, for to touch them was to become unclean as well.
    Jesus saw and heard the ten lepers and then gave them an odd command, “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (v. 14). The command was odd because lepers were not permitted in the temple, where they would have had to go in order to show themselves to the priests. Still they went on their way, “and as they went, they were cleansed” (v. 14)! They all must have had faith that Jesus would heal them, for they all obeyed His command to go. However, when the miracle of healing occurred only one came back to thank Jesus.
   The thankful one was so filled with gratitude a mere, “Thank you, Jesus” was not enough, for he literally “threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him” (v. 16). Such deep thankfulness comes from the bottom of a heart aware it could never repay Jesus for the miracle of transformation. 
   Sometimes we ask God for a miracle and then seem surprised when He gives us one! Though often surprised, may we never be ungrateful. This Thanksgiving week let us remember all Jesus has done for us, beginning with dying in our place, and then let us take the time to go to Him, throw ourselves at His feet, and thank Him. This is proper, for we too can never repay Him for the miracle of transformation He has worked in us.

Dear Lord, Just like this leper You have healed me and cleansed me. I was unclean and You have made me perfect and spotless in Your sight. Though I can never repay the debt of gratitude I owe, today I come and bow before You in thanksgiving for all You have done for me. ~ Amen

November 15, 2015

Refusing to be Comforted

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.  Genesis 37:34-35

   Jesus offers believers beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and praise for the spirit of despair. However, like Jacob, we can refuse to be comforted.
   Out of jealousy, Jacob’s sons sold Joseph, their younger brother, into slavery and deceived their father into believing he was dead. The loss Jacob felt was real and to mourn “his son many days” was customary. However, he relegated himself to mourning until he died. Jacob would not have to mourn until then, for God had a plan (Genesis 50:20) that reunited him with Joseph thirteen years later (Genesis 46:29). Still, thirteen years is a long time to mourn. 
   When my daughter, Kaitlyn and her family, moved away to Arizona I refused to be comforted for well over a month. Surely, my loss was real and it would have been customary to mourn for days, but not weeks. Mourning is miserable, yet sometimes we get comfortable in our misery and wallow in it for way too long. Just like Jacob and Joseph, God reunited me with Kaitlyn and her family after just four months. Thank God, with His help, I did not waste those months mourning a loss I thought permanent, that He knew was only temporary.  
   Scripture tells us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….a time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). There is “a time” to mourn, but God never intended it to be for a lifetime. God longs to give us beauty, joy and praise to end our time of mourning. The greater loss would be to not accept the gifts He so graciously offers.  

Dear Lord, Teach me to trust Your plan, even in my pain. Keep me from lingering in my mourning too long and refusing to be comforted. 
Please enable me to accept Your comfort today. ~ Amen

November 8, 2015

The Sacrifice of Praise

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15

   It is easy to praise God when life is good, but to praise God during hard times is entirely another story. When praise comes hard or we do not “feel” like it, and we praise God anyway—that is the sacrifice of praise.
   We are called to offer up this sacrifice to God and the only way we can is, “through Jesus” (Hebrews 13:15). I learned this truth personally when in the spring of 2014 my daughter, Kaitlyn told me she and her family would be moving to Arizona “in the near future.” Immediately, I began praying against the move, for they would also be taking my first grandbaby with them! God gently prompted me with each prayer to prepare myself for their departure. Unfortunately, I failed to do so. 
   They lived with my husband Ken and me for four months, saving money for the move. The day we said our goodbyes I felt like a part of me was dying. I could not bring myself to praise God in that moment.  
   It took over a month for me to realize only “through Jesus” could I praise Him in my sadness. Graciously, He showed me reasons to praise Him: they had a safe trip, I had a sunny vacation spot to escape the long Maine winters, and I was getting to know my daughter, Jaclyn, with her sister and best friend gone, in a way I never had before.
   I continued to praise Him, not knowing in four months time He would bring them all home again! God always has a plan and even when we do not understand it, “through Jesus” we can offer the sacrifice of praise for it!  

Dear Lord, Only You can enable me to offer up the sacrifice of praise in my sadness until it becomes bonafide praise. No matter what, You are always worthy of praise and there is always something to praise You for.  Help me praise You today. ~ Amen

November 1, 2015

Praise for Despair

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair… ~ Isaiah 61:3

   There is power in music and singing, for it can brighten our moods and lift our spirits. Praise is also powerful. Praise a person and they stand taller. Praise God and He floods you with His presence, for God inhabits praise (Psalm 22:3 KJV). Praising God in good times is easy. When times are tough, praise is a sacrifice. It is then; God longs to give us the “garment of praise” for the “spirit of despair.”
   God did it for King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. Three kingdoms declared war on Judah. After inquiring of the LORD, proclaiming a fast (v. 3), and assembling the people to seek help from the Lord (v. 4), King Jehoshaphat appointed men at the front of the army to sing praises to the LORD (v. 21). As they sang, the LORD set ambushes against Judah’s enemies and they slaughtered one another (v. 22-23)! The result: King Jehoshaphat and his army never fought, for the Lord fought for them, just as He had promised (v. 15-17)!
   God also gave Paul and Silas the “garment of praise” for the “spirit of despair.” Acts 16 tells how Paul and Silas went to Macedonia under God’s leading and ended up beaten, thrown in prison, and put in stocks (v. 22-24). Nevertheless, these men had soul deep praise as they prayed and sang hymns to God in prison (v. 25). The result: a violent earthquake, every prisoner’s chains fell off and the jailer and his family were saved (v. 26-29)!
   The natural response in both situations was despair, but the supernatural response was praise (Hebrews 13:15)! When God gives praise for despair it is always miraculous! 

Dear Lord, It is only through Jesus I can offer up the sacrifice of praise when times are tough. 
Help me to remember, no matter what, You are always worthy of praise. 
Please give me the “garment of praise” for the “spirit of despair.” ~ Amen

October 18, 2015

Soul Deep Praise

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair… ~ Isaiah 61:3

   A “garment of praise” sounds beautiful, and it is! The Hebrew word for “garment” comes from “atah” meaning “to cover, to envelop.” Picture Jesus wrapping this garment around you, and in doing so, He is enveloping you in His arms as well. One simply cannot be in the arms of Jesus and in “a spirit of despair” at the same time!
    The Hebrew word for “praise” means, “a song or hymn of praise, adoration, thanksgiving” and it comes from “halal” which means “to be clear, to shine, to flash forth light.” Therefore, the “garment of praise” is Jesus enveloping us in a song of praise that clearly shines forth His light. This is amazing in light of Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God…will rejoice over you with singing.” Surely we can sing praises to our God, as He rejoices over us with singing! 
   Psalms is a song book of praises. Psalms 113-118 have been specifically designated the “Hallel” or praise psalms. Jesus sang these praise psalms the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26). The Last Supper was the celebration of the Passover, and traditionally the first part of the Hallel (Psalm 113-114) was sung during the meal, and the remainder (Psalm 115-118) at the end of the meal. 
   Please take the time to read Psalm 118 and see the praise Jesus sang to the Father with the cross just hours away. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:28). Surely, if Jesus can sing over us and sing such praises with the cross before Him, He is worthy of our praise. Only He can give us soul deep praise, for only He can give us the “garment of praise.” Praise His Holy name!

Dear Lord, You are worthy of all praise! I cannot fathom that You sing over me. Help me to hear Your song over me, 
as I lift my song of soul deep praise to You. ~ Amen 

October 4, 2015

Joy for Mourning

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them
a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning… ~ Isaiah 61:3

   Scripture is clear. There is “a time to mourn…” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Esau mourned forfeiting his father’s blessing (Genesis 27:38). Jacob mourned the loss of his son (Genesis 37:35). David mourned the death of his friend (2 Samuel 1:12). Nehemiah mourned the devastation of Jerusalem’s wall (Nehemiah 1:4). Peter mourned denying Jesus (Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72). 
   There are times in our lives when mourning is appropriate. However, God will not leave us in our grief. He longs to bestow on us “the oil of joy instead of mourning.” Esau’s blessing was not restored, but his relationship with his brother was (Genesis 33:4). Jacob was reunited with Joseph, whom he thought was dead (Genesis 46:29). David took Jonathon’s son into the palace and treated him as one of his own (2 Samuel 9:11). Nehemiah spearheaded the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall in record time (Nehemiah 6:15). Peter was totally forgiven and completely restored by Jesus (John 21:15-22).  
   Today, if you find yourself mourning, take heart in God’s promise that “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT). God can and will give you joy for mourning. The disciples mourning, in the dark days after the cross (John 20:19), was turned to joy in the light of the resurrection (John 20:20). Likewise, our mourning will turn to joy, for by sharing in Christ’s sufferings we also share in His resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11; Romans 8:17). Then we too will sing with David, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11)! Never forget there is divine purpose in our suffering, just as there was in the suffering of our Savior. 

Dear Lord, Thank You that there is coming a day when You will wipe away every tear and there will be no more mourning (Revelation 21:4)! But until that day help me to remember that You promise to give me joy for mourning here. My sorrow will pass, Your joy will come. ~ Amen

September 27, 2015

Soul Deep Joy

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning...~Isaiah 61:3

  Joy is not happiness. Confusing the two is a mistake many of us make. Happiness is only skin deep and is dependent on our outward circumstances. For example, if I gave you $100 that would probably make you very happy and put a big smile on your face. However, if you lost $100 that would probably make you unhappy and would undoubtedly turn your smile upside down.
   Soul deep joy is inner joy that is not dependent on our outward circumstances or how we feel at the moment. Christians can experience soul deep joy, whether we are given or lose $100, because soul deep joy is internal joy that exceeds our circumstances (James 1:2). Soul deep joy comes from our salvation (Isaiah 61:10) and Jesus reminds us of this when He said, “…rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Life does not have to be delightful for believers to delight themselves in the Lord or in their salvation (Psalm 37:4-6). This is what empowers believers to face the trials of this life in a supernatural way, for the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  
   Still the enemy can come and steal our joy by luring us to focus on our circumstances, instead of on our Savior. When that happens, we would do well to pray David’s prayer, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). The old hymn still rings true, “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.” Soul deep joy can only be found in Jesus. 

Dear Lord, I praise You that my name is written in heaven and for the soul
deep joy that comes from my salvation. Jesus, You are my salvation. Help me to delight myself in You today. ~ Amen

September 13, 2015

Beauty for Ashes

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes… ~ Isaiah 61:3

   We all grieve at times. There is real pain, loss, and sorrow in this fallen world and believers are not exempt from it. In fact, sometimes it seems, the enemy has his entire arsenal aimed at us. Sometimes it seems, the evil one has been permitted to detonate a bomb that turns our lives to ash. 
   God, in His sovereignty, allows such devastation that He might do His miraculous work of transformation. God wants to “bestow” on us “a crown of beauty” for the ashes of our lives. The story of Mordecai literally depicts this great exchange. When evil Haman plots to kill all the Jews, Mordecai is deeply grieved, “he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly” (Esther 4:1). Mordecai begs Queen Esther to plead for her people before the king. The Jews are saved, Haman is executed, and Mordecai is given “…a large crown of gold…” to wear (Esther 8:15). Mordecai literally experienced a crown of beauty for ashes!
   God still gives beauty for ashes. When my mother died unexpectedly after complications from hip replacement surgery, and I discovered the devastating secrets she took her grave: two other marriages and six other children, it seemed my whole life turned to ash. I covered myself with and sat in those ashes for over a year before I finally gave them to God. He took my ashes and gave me Living Power Ministry in their place. Only God could do such a thing!
  God in His great love longs to turn your ashes into His beauty as well. He did it for Mordecai. He did it for me. He can to do it for you.  

Dear Lord, Today please keep me from sitting in the ashes of my life and help me to trust You with them instead, believing in Your perfect time, You will miraculously transform them into something beautiful. Thank you, Jesus. ~ Amen 

September 6, 2015

Soul Deep Beauty

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes… ~ Isaiah 61:3

   Everyone wants to be beautiful, yet everyone defines beauty differently. After all, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” right? While that might be true at some level, when we think of beauty only in regards to what we can see, we relegate beauty to only being skin deep. 
   Skin deep beauty is big business! It is estimated the global beauty industry, consisting of: skin care, make-up, hair care, and perfumes will rake in $461 billion in 2018! That might make us gasp but we all help the beauty industry thrive…I know I do. Some of us have even bought into this idea of skin deep beauty being the ultimate goal. However, even if we achieve that goal, skin deep beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30) and pursuing it ultimately leaves us empty. 
   God has a better way. He always does. God wants to give us soul deep beauty. It is beauty not clearly visible, yet it can be seen. It is beauty indescribable, yet distinctly recognizable. It is beauty that defies age, for it is eternal. It is beauty that figuratively shines from the inside out, as Moses literally did, “…his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD” (Exodus 34:29).
   That is the kind of beauty we really want and God promises to give it to us in exchange for the ashes of our lives. The question is will we give Him our ashes, that we might receive His gift of soul deep beauty? It is beauty money cannot buy for it is priceless and soul deep beauty makes not just us, but life truly beautiful. 

Dear Lord, You make me beautiful when I trust You enough to give You the ashes of my life. 
Today, I give You my ashes believing You will give me soul deep beauty in return. ~ Amen

August 30, 2015

Waiting on You Lord

LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. ~ Psalm 38:15

   This summer I was blessed to take a road trip to North Carolina with my daughter, Jaclyn and son-in-law, Mizael. They are a young couple who love the Lord and each other very much. Time spent with them is always special.
   During the trip down, While I’m Waiting, by John Waller, came over the radio. Mizael, who was driving, reached into the back seat and took Jaclyn’s hand. Then they both sang the words, “I'm waiting on You Lord; And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You Lord; Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait; And I will move ahead bold and confident; Taking every step in obedience; While I'm waiting I will serve You; While I'm waiting I will worship; While I'm waiting I will not faint; I'll be running the race even while I wait.” When the song ended they said in unison, “That is our song.” Tears filled my eyes, because I know some of the things they are waiting for, and they are running the race even while they wait. I told them God would bless them richly, for waiting patiently and obediently.
   One thing they were waiting for was a second car. Little did we know the Lord planned this trip to end the wait! While in North Carolina we met one of Mizael’s friends at Starbucks. Having just purchased a new car, she said she felt the Lord wanted her to give her old car to Mizael and Jaclyn, as a gift! 
  We drove home in two cars, our faith increased, knowing more than ever that when we wait on the Lord, He will answer! 

Dear Lord, Waiting is never easy, but You bless those who wait patiently and obediently on You. 
Help me to keep serving and worshiping You, even while I wait, trusting You will answer. ~Amen

August 16, 2015

Starry Night

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?...LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! ~ Psalm 8:3-4, & 9

   A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Cynthia and I attended “Stars Over Sand Beach” in Acadia National Park. The day was cloudy, so while eating dinner on the summit of Cadillac Mountain we prayed, asking God to roll the clouds away, and for a clear view of the stars that night.
   What happened next amazed us! God literally rolled the clouds away from west to east and gave us a rainbow too! The rainbow was an added gift, for it had not even rained! Furthermore, it stood suspended in the sky for nearly a half hour, growing brighter and brighter until all seven colors could be seen! We headed to Sand Beach praising God and wondering why it shocks us when He answers our prayers so quickly and clearly! 
   The stars were spectacular. The Milky Way parted the sky bright and visible from one horizon to the other. The highlight was seeing some huge fire balls light up the night, as they streaked across the sky, drawing shrieks of delight from all of us blessed to see them! 
   The rangers pointed out constellations and told stories of Greek mythology, but all I could think of was how God not only created every star (Genesis 1:16; Psalm 8:3), He has numbered and named each one (Psalm 147:4) too! This shows the vastness of our God, for there is an estimated 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone and there are an estimated 10 trillion galaxies in the universe (, May 31, 2014)! Truly, the Lord’s name is not only majestic in all the earth (Psalm 8:9) but in all the sky as well!

Dear Lord, You are Creator of the Universe, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and yet You care about me. 
Help to grasp the vastness of Your creation and the vastness of Your love. ~ Amen 

August 9, 2015

Sincere Power

Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power. ~ Proverbs 8:14

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 
~ James 3:17

   There are seven pillars of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1). We have studied six so far: pure prudence, peaceable knowledge, gentle discretion, reasonable counsel, merciful judgment, and impartial insight. The seventh and final pillar of wisdom is sincere power (Proverbs 8:14; James 3:17).
   Power can be easily misused and abused. It is tragic when that happens. However, an equal tragedy is to have power and not utilize it. All true believers have power. In fact, Paul calls it “incomparably great power,” for it is the same power God used to raise Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20)! The word “power” or “gebuwrah” in the Hebrew (Proverbs 8:14) is also found in 1 Chronicles 29:11 where David praises God saying, “Yours, LORD, is…the power… you are exalted as head over all.” You see, the power that comes with wisdom is the power of God and the power of God will always be sincere. 
   The word “sincere” or “anypokritos” in the Greek means “unfeigned; undisguised.” Sincere power is genuine, honest and true power. It is also “undisguised” power, for it is recognizably the power of God. We must never take credit for the power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). Rather, let us echo Paul by boasting in our weaknesses, “so that Christ’s power may rest” on us (2 Corinthians 12:9).  
   We must understand, that as true believers, the power of God is at work within us even now and that the power of God is available for us to utilize every moment of our lives. Such knowledge should cause us to fear and revere the Lord…which, by the way, is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10).

Dear Lord, Help me to know the incomparably great power You have for me as a believer 
and to utilize it more and more in my everyday life. Please set up the pillar of sincere power within me 
and may You receive all the honor and glory. ~ Amen

July 12, 2015

Impartial Insight

Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight…~ Proverbs 8:14

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial… 
~ James 3:17

   There are seven pillars of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1). We have looked at five so far; pure prudence, peaceable knowledge, gentle discretion, reasonable counsel, and merciful judgment. The sixth pillar of wisdom is impartial insight (Proverbs 8:14; James 3:17).
   “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11 NASB) and we are called to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1 NASB). Jesus is our perfect example. He ate with tax collectors and sinners, as well as Pharisees (Matthew 9:11, Luke 7:36). He touched lepers, as well as children (Mark 1:40-41, Mark 10:16). He took time to talk with the Samaritan woman, as well as the rich young ruler (John 4:7-27, Matthew 19:16-22). But nothing depicts His impartiality more clearly than when Jesus washed His disciple’s feet (John 13:1-11), for not only did He wash the feet of Judas, who would betray Him, He washed the feet of Peter, who would deny Him. Scripture is clear, Christians are to be like Christ and not show favoritism (James 2:1), for to do so is sin (James 2:9). 
   While we may comprehend what it means to be impartial in general (James 3:17), the sixth pillar of wisdom goes further and requires us to have impartial “insight” or “understanding,” as well (Proverbs 8:14 KJV, NASB). The ground at the foot of the cross is level. We must remember this in our dealings with all people. Our love and understanding towards others should be the same whether they are rich or poor, beautiful or homely, healthy or crippled, powerful or powerless, sinners or saints. This is only possible as we learn to lean on God and not our own "understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  

Dear Lord, You treated all people with love and respect while not compromising or lowering Your standards. 
Please empower me to do the same. ~ Amen

July 5, 2015

Merciful Judgment

Counsel and sound judgment are mine; ~ Proverbs 8:14a

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, ~ James 3:17 (NASB)

   There are seven pillars of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1) and we have looked at over half of them; pure prudence, peaceable knowledge, gentle discretion, and reasonable counsel. The fifth pillar of wisdom is merciful judgment (Proverbs 8:14; James 3:17 NASB). Though this pillar may appear to be a paradox, every true Christian has experienced the utter joy and liberation of merciful judgment.
   Christ’s death and resurrection means “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Our sins have been tossed into the sea of forgetfulness (Micah 7:19) to remembered against us no more. They have been separated from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and though they were as scarlet, they have been made as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). The guilty has been rendered a verdict of not guilty, because of Jesus Christ. 
   Therefore, let us not be like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35, who though forgiven a great debt refused to forgive a small one. Rather, let us judge others mercifully, for we have been shown mercy. The purpose of extending merciful judgment is to save souls. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.
   Watch this, “fruits” (karpos) in the Greek means “to gather fruit into eternal life, those who by their labors have fitted souls to obtain eternal life.” We can bare a harvest of souls, through extending merciful judgment. This is “good” (agathos) which, in the Greek, means “joyful, excellent, distinguished, and honorable.” Is there anything better than leading someone to Jesus? Oh let us be “full of mercy,” that our lives might be full of “good fruits.”

Dear Lord, You have shown me mercy, help me to show mercy to someone today that I might also show them You. ~ Amen

June 28, 2015

One Nation Under God

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. ~ Deuteronomy 4:39

   This week we celebrate the birth of our nation, the United States of America. The labor was long “…can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” (Isaiah 66:8). The birth was painful as George Washington stated “. . . you might have tracked the army from White Marsh to Valley Forge by the blood of their feet.”
   History has it that during the darkest days at Valley Forge, George Washington could be found kneeling in earnest prayer. The painting, The Prayer at Valley Forge, by American artist, Arnold Friberg (1913-2010), powerfully captures such a moment. Obviously, the future first president of our great nation believed the last words of the Declaration of Independence “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
   We are a nation rooted in faith and God has blessed America. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “one nation under God”. Our national anthem declares, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust’”. Our currency is stamped with the testimony “In God We Trust” which, by Act of Congress, legally became our national motto on July 30, 1956! 
   A lot has changed in little over half a century. Sadly, many Americans have forgotten God, the very foundation on which our nation was built. However, this fact will never change “the LORD is God…There is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39) and He is over all (Psalm 47:2). 

Dear Lord, Thank You that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Today I bow in prayer for my country 
and ask You to heal our land. Bring us back to You. ~ Amen 

June 21, 2015

Father to the Fatherless

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. ~ Psalm 68:5

   Life was hard growing up. The harder it got the harder my dad drank. The harder he drank the harder he hit. Nights were the worst. Often, in the darkness, I wished to be brave enough to protect my mom, but I was not. So my wish changed to wanting my dad to go away.
   Then one day it happened. I was eleven. My wish had come true, but the pain of his abandonment seared me to the point of penning these words, “…still that day you walked away, I could feel my tightening heart, and though I almost hated you, my whole world fell apart.” My earthly father left us emotionally, physically, and financially broke. However, the Lord did not leave us that way. 
   Eight months later a young Nazarene minister paid us a visit. He sat on the couch in our small apartment and spoke to my mom about God’s love and grace. Before leaving he led her through a prayer of repentance. Silently, I prayed the same prayer.
   That night I started reading my Bible for the first time. It was as if God led me straight to Psalm 68:5 and it changed everything. I woke that morning fatherless, but I went to bed believing God was now my Father.  
   This week as we celebrate Father’s Day, if you have or had a loving, caring father, appreciate him. But if you, like me, do not, please grasp the fact we are no longer fatherless. God is our Father and He is what no earthly father can be…perfect! May we experience God’s perfect love and in return show Him our deep love and gratitude.

Dear Lord, Thank You for being the perfect Father to me. I love and appreciate You.
 Help me to show it not only today, but every day. ~ Amen

June 14, 2015

Reasonable Counsel

Counsel and sound judgment are mine; ~ Proverbs 8:14a (NASB)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable…~ James 3:17 (NASB)

  We have looked at three of the seven pillars of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1); pure prudence, peaceable knowledge, and gentle discretion. Today, we look at the fourth pillar of wisdom, reasonable counsel (Proverbs 8:12 (NASB); James 3:17 (NASB)). This pillar is literally central for it falls in the middle with three pillars listed before it and three after. This is not without purpose, as we will see.
   “Reasonable” (eupeithes) in the Greek means, “easily obeying, compliant” and it is derived from two other words; eu which means “acting well” and peitho which means “to persuade, to induce one by words to believe.” Obedience is central to the Christian life and apparently to wisdom as well. Samuel declared, “To obey is better than sacrifice…” (I Samuel 15:22) and Jesus proclaimed, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching…” (John 14:23). The more we love God, the more we will obey Him. The more we obey God, the more we will be a reflection of Him to the world. Such a life glorifies God and has the potential to persuade others to believe.
   “Counsel” (etsah) in the Hebrew means, “counsel, advice, purpose.” No matter the situation or circumstance, the greatest counsel and advice we can give ourselves or give anyone is to obey the Lord; not our feelings, or popular opinion. The best way to be a good witness is to be an obedient follower who seeks and heeds the words of Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6).
   The beautiful reality of the pillar of reasonable counsel is that by living lives of obedience we will no doubt persuade others to believe and “…he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).  

Dear Lord, You are Wonderful Counselor and I am wise to obey You. Doing so enables me to counsel others in word and deed to follow You. 
In my obedience Lord please make me a winner of souls. ~ Amen

June 7, 2015

Gentle Discretion

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; and I find knowledge and discretion. ~ Proverbs 8:12 (NASB)

But the wisdom that is from above is first of all pure; then peaceable, gentle… ~ James 3:17 (KJV)

   There are seven pillars of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1). The first is pure prudence. The second is peaceable knowledge. 
  The third pillar of wisdom is gentle discretion (Proverbs 8:12 (NASB); James 3:17 (KJV)). “Discretion” (mezimmah) in the Hebrew means “purpose” and it comes from the root word “zamam” which means “to consider-fix thought upon.” 
   Since the fall, man has had the problem of a wandering mind. Therefore, we often like Peter do not “have in mind” the things of God but rather the things of man (Matthew 16:21-23). That is why the renewing of our minds is so important (Romans 12:2) and God alone makes it possible by giving us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Godly wisdom causes us to fix our thoughts on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1). The divine result is that we will more consistently think about “whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…” (Philippians 4:8), leading us to live out our true purpose, which is to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7; Romans 15:5-6). 
   Such discretion is gentle and our first thoughts about others, circumstances, or even trials will not be negative. “Gentle” (epieikes) in the Greek means, “seeming, suitable, equitable, fair, mild” and it comes from the root word “eiko” meaning “to be like.” Remembering that we too are sinners keeps our thoughts gentle. Paul understood this, calling himself the chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and declaring “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
   The pillar of gentle discretion reminds us that we have a divine purpose, and it is wise to always keep that in mind.  

Dear Lord, Thank you for the pillar of gentle discretion. Help me to fix my mind on You that my thoughts might be pure 
and that I might live out my divine purpose to glorify You. ~ Amen

May 25, 2015

Peaceable Knowledge

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; and I find knowledge and discretion. ~ Proverbs 8:12 (NASB)

But the wisdom that is from above is first of all pure; then peaceable… ~ James 3:17 (KJV)

   There are seven pillars of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1). The first is pure prudence. This powerful pillar stands to show that Godly wisdom, though pure, is no pawn and, though prudent, is no pushover. Therefore, Jesus calls His disciplines to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
  The second pillar of wisdom is peaceable knowledge (Proverbs 8:12 (NASB); James 3:17 (KJV)). It is knowledge of God that brings peace. Proverbs 8:12 (NASB) reads, “I, wisdom…find knowledge.” This is interesting because “find” (matsa) in Hebrew means, “to find what is lost” and “knowledge” (daath) means, “perception, skill, understanding.” When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17) much was lost, for our knowledge of evil now rivals and wars against our knowledge of good. Godly wisdom finds that which was lost, enabling us, as believers, to heed Paul’s admonition to “be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19).
  Knowledge of God and of good brings His peace. In James 3:17 (KJV) “peaceable” (eirenikos) in Greek means, “loving peace, bring peace with it, pacific, salutary.” In other words, wisdom that comes from heaven brings with it a helpful, valuable, and constructive peace. Wisdom does not bludgeon others with its knowledge to make a point, but rather pours forth its knowledge in a useful and peaceful way. Grace and peace are ours in abundance through our knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2) and the second pillar of wisdom enables us to pass it on.

Dear Lord, Set up the pillar of peaceable knowledge in my heart and life. Thank You that wisdom deepens my knowledge of You 
thereby giving me greater peace. Help me to share my knowledge of You in constructive and peaceful ways rather than assault people with it. ~ Amen

May 17, 2015

Pure Prudence

“I, wisdom dwell together with prudence;” ~ Proverbs 8:12

But wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; ~ James 3:17

   The house of wisdom has seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1). Some Biblical scholars believe they are listed in Proverbs 8:12-13, while others believe they are found in James 3:17. We will venture to look at both lists simultaneously.
   The first pillar of wisdom in Proverbs 8:12 is “prudence” from the Hebrew “ormah” meaning “shrewdness, craftiness.” Prudence incorporates practicality and discretion. It also implies forethought, which is to not take things at face value, but to look deeply into the heart of a matter. Like Solomon, when faced with the dispute of two women both claiming to be the mother of one child. He ordered the child sawed in two and a half given to each woman, to which one woman relented, telling the king the other woman could have the child, thus proving herself to be the real mother (1 Kings 3:16-28). Solomon’s wise and prudent judgment caused all Israel to revere him (1King 3:28). 
   James 3:17 states that wisdom is first of all “pure,” from the Greek “hagnos” meaning “exciting reverence, sacred, clean.” Wisdom is both prudent and pure. It is sacred shrewdness. Jesus called His disciples to this when He said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Here, in the Greek “shrewd” means “prudent; mindful of one’s interest” and “innocent” means “unmixed; pure as in wine or metal.” 
   Wisdom is no pawn or pushover. It is pure prudence, sacred shrewdness. Oh that this pillar would be set up in us, so that in some small way people will see the wisdom of God in us as they did in Solomon (1 Kings 3:28).  

Dear Lord, Please set up the pillar of pure prudence in me. Help me look to You before I leap and make snap judgments. 
Cause me to look deeply into the heart of a matter through the lens of Your love and strength. ~ Amen

May 10, 2015

A Mother’s Greatest Gift

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. 
For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD. ~1 Samuel 1:27-28a

   Many women have prayed for a child and received the desire of their hearts—be it biological, adopted, or as a surrogate. All of us, who are blessed with children in our lives, need to realize they are gifts from God.
   Motherhood is the best job in the world, but also the hardest, for it is the quintessential example of on the job training. We all make our share of mistakes; I know I have. Oh that we would learn quickly what Hannah knew from the start. 
   Barren and deeply anguished, Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10, 15). She made a vow that if God gave her a child; she would give the child back to God (v. 11). Samuel was the answer to Hannah’s prayers (v. 20). Honoring her vow, after he was weaned (between 2 and 4 years old), she took him to the temple to live (v. 22). Every year thereafter, at the time of the annual sacrifice, she took Samuel a hand-made robe (1 Samuel 2:19). 
   Thankfully, today giving our children back to God does not literally mean leaving them at church and only seeing them once a year. Still it is a purposeful act of the will that never stops. All of our children’s lives we must repeatedly give them over to the LORD, just as Hannah did with Samuel, “for his whole life he will be given over to the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:28a). 
   Our children are gifts and our greatest gift to our children is to give them back to Gift Giver (James 1:17). 

Dear Lord, It is a great blessing to be a mother (or mother figure) to a child. Help me to remember the best thing I can do 
for those You have entrusted to me is to give them back to You. ~ Amen

April 26, 2015

The House of Wisdom

Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. ~ Proverbs 9:1

   Proverbs 9:1 is first captivating, because wisdom is given the persona of a woman, “Wisdom has built her house…” and second, because of the “seven pillars” of wisdom. No doubt “a house” with “seven pillars” is more like a mansion. This would be fitting, for wisdom is more valuable than silver and gold (Proverbs 3:14-15) and holds long life, riches and honor (v. 16) in her hands. Wisdom is rich, so why would her house be anything less?
   The house of wisdom is built upon the rock (Matthew 7:24) and its foundation is secure. But what are the “seven pillars” of wisdom? On this Biblical scholars do not entirely agree. Some believe the “seven pillars” of wisdom are listed in Proverbs 8:12-14, “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence, I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power.” While others believe they are listed in James 3:17, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” 
   It seems to me that the two lists are largely synonymous. Being aware of the “seven pillars” is important for gaining wisdom. Do we see these “seven pillars” in our own lives or not? More than likely we see some and not others. So, over the next few weeks we will be looking more closely at the “seven pillars” of wisdom. Surely, as Christians, we want the “seven pillars” of wisdom built in us. 

Dear Lord, It is precious to me that You speak of wisdom as a woman. 
Please make me a wise woman by building the seven pillars of wisdom into my heart and life. ~ Amen

April 19, 2015

Build Wisely

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” ~Matthew 7:24

   Wisdom is priceless and beneficial (Proverbs 3:13-26). Wisdom begins with and comes from God (Proverbs 9:10). Wisdom is a mate to humility (Proverbs 26:12). We are on a journey to get wisdom, yet it is not just something we get (Proverbs 4:7; 16:16), but something that is built into our lives.
   After teaching second grade for nine years, it is hard to read Matthew 7:24 without breaking into song, “The wise man built his house upon the rock…” The song is light and fun, but this scriptural illustration actually follows some very hard teaching. In fact, it is the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount which began in Matthew 5. 
   This renowned sermon, with the Beatitudes as its introduction, ends with Jesus teaching on some intense spiritual topics like: judging others, fruit bearing, false prophets, and the final judgment. His powerful conclusion (v. 25-27) makes it clear, that if we are to be wise, we must put God’s Word into practice. A house is only as strong as its foundation and being a doer of the Word ensures our house is built, not on just any old rock, but on “the rock,” which is the Lord. 
   The result is that our house will not fall even through the hurricanes of life (Matthew 7:25), for its firm foundation makes it secure. Therefore, as we get wisdom and wisely build our house, we will be able to say of the Lord, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:6). Building wisely helps build unwavering faith.

Dear Lord, Please help me to put Your Word into practice that I might build wisely upon You, my rock. 
Thank You that as You help me to do this You will also increase my faith until it is unshakable. ~ Amen

April 5, 2015

Third Day Glory

Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. ~ Matthew 28:9

   Among Christians, the phrase “on the third day” is synonymous with Easter. Christ stated seven times that He would be killed and then raised to life “on the third day.” Miraculously and gloriously it happened just as He said it would. Today, many of us know Jesus lives because He lives in us and we have a relationship with Him.
   We know Jesus is alive, but the women who came to the tomb early on the third day did not. They went to the tomb, eyes swollen from weeping, shoulders drooping in doubt, and hearts heavy with grief. When they arrived at the tomb there was a violent earthquake. Their feelings flowing raw must have swelled to a tsunami as an angel of the LORD came from heaven, rolled away the stone, and sat upon it (Matthew 28:2). Shining with the glory of heaven, his appearance like lightning, and his clothes as white as snow, the guards became as dead men (Matthew 28:4).
   However, the angel comforted the frightened women saying, “…Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:5-6). Seeing the empty tomb the women were filled with joy. They ran to tell the disciples when suddenly Jesus met them! “They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9).
   This Easter let us mediate on the third day glory of Christ’s resurrection and may we likewise come to the Lord, clasp His feet, and worship Him. 

Dear Lord, it is Your death, burial and resurrection that secures my salvation and makes our relationship possible. 
Therefore, let my trembling give way to worship. ~ Amen

March 22, 2015

Wisdom and Humility: A Match Made in Heaven

…with humility comes wisdom. ~ Proverbs 26:12

   Wisdom is huge in God’s economy. Scripture implores us to get it (Proverbs 4:7; 16:16)), clearly describes the benefits of it (Proverbs 3:13-26), and declares all true wisdom begins with God (Proverbs 9:10).
   Spending time in the presence of the omniscient Lord makes us painfully aware of how very little we know. Therefore, if we are going to know anything, or anyone, let it be the Lord. Let us echo Paul’s resolution to know nothing, but Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is our only hope of wisdom. Spending time with the Lord humbles us. How fitting for “…with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).  
   Scripture speaks of two types of wisdom. True wisdom “that comes from heaven” (James 3:17) and the counterfeit “wisdom” that is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:15). How do we tell the difference? We tell the difference by what accompanies it. Envy, bitterness, pride and selfish ambition are the companions of earthly wisdom (James 3:14). Humility is the partner of Godly wisdom. They go hand in hand, a match made in heaven. A person who is “wise in their own eyes” has earthly wisdom. Heaven help them as, “There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 26:12). A person with wisdom from above is declared wise by others and not themselves for, “The wise inherit honor” (Proverbs 3:35).  
   On this journey towards wisdom we are not interested in getting the counterfeit, we want the real deal. The simple reality is, apart from God we cannot truly be wise, and the truly wise are humble.  

Dear Lord, Keep me from being wise in my own eyes. Keep me humble and give me the true wisdom that comes from heaven. ~ Amen

March 15, 2015

The Beginning of Wisdom

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom… ~ Proverbs 9:10, Psalm 111:10  

   It is best to start at the beginning, and Scripture is clear: the beginning of wisdom is “the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10, Psalm 111:10). The root word for “fear” in these verses refers to a reverent fear meaning “to honour, respect, to stand in awe of.” 
​   The fear of the LORD has to do with us understanding who “LORD” is and who we are in comparison. The word used for “LORD” in these verses is what is called the tetragrammaton (Greek for “word of four letters”). Actually it is the only name for God that observant Jews will write down, but will not pronounce, considering it to be too holy for utterance. In English it is commonly written YHWH or JHVH.
   How fitting, a name too holy to pronounce for a God too holy to approach on our own. God’s holiness is His only attribute given in triplicate in Scripture, for “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). God is “…The Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it” (Isaiah 42:5). We are His creation. Truly, apart from Christ, there is no comparison.
   It is staggering to think YHWH loves us enough to make a way for us to have fellowship with Him! If we truly grasp the magnitude of the gap between us and YHWH, which Christ’s death on cross has bridged, our only appropriate response is to honor, respect, and stand in awe of YHWH. And when we do, we are just beginning on the path of wisdom.  

Dear Lord, Please help me understand more and more who You are and who I am because of what Christ has done 
so that I might fear You more and thereby begin the journey of wisdom. ~ Amen

March 8, 2015

What’s So Great About Wisdom? (Part 2)

Blessed are those who find wisdom… ~ Proverbs 3:13a

   Last week we saw that finding wisdom is like hitting a spiritual jackpot for long life, riches, honor, pleasant ways and paths of peace all come with it (Proverbs 3:16-18). No wonder Scripture declares the one who finds wisdom is blessed (v. 13a)! Surely, that would be enough, but wisdom has even more to offer us!
   Wisdom existed before time began (Proverbs 8:22-31) and took part in all creation, from the earth’s foundations to the heavens being put in place, from the division of the watery depths to the dew dropping from the clouds (Proverbs 3: 19-20). How amazing to know wisdom can be ours, if we will but seek it! And once we have found it, we are wise to “take hold” of it (v. 18) and never let it out of sight (v. 21).
   No doubt, once we find wisdom we realize it “is more profitable than silver…yields better returns than gold,” and is “more precious than rubies” (v. 14-15), for it enables us to go on our way in safety, and can keep us from stumbling (v. 23). Furthermore, it gives us rest without fear and ensures our “sleep will be sweet” (v. 24). Wisdom keeps us from being afraid of “sudden disaster” or “ruin”, for wisdom knows the LORD is at our side and will keep our “foot from being snared” (v. 25-26). 
   Therefore, one could say, wisdom helps us live the Christian life richly, peacefully, and victoriously. That alone makes wisdom priceless to any true follower of Christ. So what are we waiting for? Let our earnest search for wisdom begin right here, right now.

Dear Lord, Wisdom has so much to offer, forgive me for not earnestly seeking it in the past. Help me, beginning today to seek it daily, 
holding on to Your promise that when I seek wisdom I will find it (Proverbs 8:17). ~ Amen

March 1, 2015

What’s So Great About Wisdom? (Part 1)

Blessed are those who find wisdom… ~ Proverbs 3:13a

   Typically, we earnestly seek only things we value. Therefore, if we are truly going to seek wisdom we have to believe it is worth the search. So what are the benefits of wisdom?
   The first benefit, according to Proverbs 3:13, is blessedness or happiness. Solomon then clearly explains, in the next thirteen verses, why “those who find wisdom” are blessed. Wisdom “is more profitable than silver and yields ​better returns than gold” (v. 14). Wisdom has rich and ongoing reward. “She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her” (v. 15). The Hebrew word for “precious” is “yagar” which means, “valuable, rare, splendid, glorious, influential.” Wisdom is spiritual currency more costly than any jewel.
   Wisdom is without equal. Think of the thing you “desire” or in the Hebrew “take delight or pleasure in” most. Did you think of a possession? God says wisdom is more delightful. Did you think of a relationship? God says wisdom is more pleasurable. Did you think of a state of being, such as good health? God says “nothing you desire” (v. 15) even compares to wisdom. The obvious question is, “How can wisdom be better than our greatest desires?”
   The answer is found in the next three verses (v. 16-18), “Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.”
   You see, wisdom is a package deal. When we ask God for wisdom, just like Solomon, we will get so much more (2 Chronicles 1:7-12). 

Dear Lord, Help me grasp the worth of wisdom. It is more valuable than jewels and more delightful than my deepest desire. 
May I seek it earnestly, trusting You to help me find it. ~ Amen

February 22, 2015

Get Wisdom

Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom…~ Proverbs 4:7a

How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!...~ Proverbs 16:16a

   This week marks another birthday for me. There is no question I am getting older, but am I getting wiser? I pray so, and toward that end, I am striving to read through Proverbs each month this year. God designed it nicely, with thirty-one chapters it is the perfect monthly devotional. When 2015 comes to a close, if I keep to my goal, I will have read through Proverbs twelve times! Will that make me twelve times wiser? My family and I can only hope.
   Inspired by God and written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 4:31), the book of Proverbs was written “for gaining wisdom…” (Proverbs 1:2). Most Biblical historians believe Solomon was between twelve and fourteen when he took the throne and Solomon calls himself “…only a little child…” (1 Kings 3:7). And yet when God appeared to him and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” Solomon asked for wisdom! God was so delighted with his request that He added “…wealth, possessions and honor…” such as no king before or after him has ever known (2 Chronicles 1:7-12). Solomon did what James admonishes us to do, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
   Over the next several weeks, I hope you will join me in my journey through these devotions, as we seek to “get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7; 16:16). Scripture declares nothing else we desire compares with wisdom (Proverbs 3:16) and it can be ours. The first step is to ask God for it. 

Dear Lord, I pray this day You would give me wisdom to do Your will, 
to understand Your Word, and to further Your work. ~ Amen

February 8, 2015

Super Bowls

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had 
a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. ~ Revelation 5:8

   Each year on Super Bowl Sunday, in an effort to fight human trafficking, we are encouraged to “pray the game.” A Los Angeles Times article by James Queally, on February 3, reported that 600 arrests were made through a national sting operation, just prior to this year’s Super Bowl. Prayers are being answered.
    How ironic that the prayers of God’s people are stored in heaven in golden bowls (Revelation 5:8), or “super bowls” if you will. The four living creatures and twenty-four elders live around the throne of God (Revelation 4:6-11) and they continually hold before Him these “super bowls” containing every prayer you and I have ever prayed (Revelation 5:8); long prayers, short prayers, desperate prayers, praising prayers. 
   Super Bowl XLVIII had the largest television audience in American history, with Nielsen reporting that 111.5 million U.S. viewers watched the game. I was one of them and odds are you were too! During the nearly four-hour telecast we all sat focused on the game. Now imagine the God of the Universe, sitting upon His throne focused on our prayers, literally breathing them in, for our prayers become heavenly incense (Revelation 5:8). This makes perfect sense as Christ’s sacrifice for us is a “sweetsmelling savour” to God (Ephesians 5:2 KJV) and “we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15 KJV). 
   Isn’t it amazing that God saves our prayers, just like He saves our tears (Psalm 56:8)? He saves them, I believe for the same reason we save things, because we love them, because they have deep meaning and beauty to us. God loves our prayers—even more than we loved the Super Bowl. 

Dear Lord, It is sobering to think You are as enthralled with my prayers as I was with the game. 
It is beautiful to know You love my prayers and not only hear them but literally breath them in. 
Oh Lord, please teach me not only how to pray but to pray more. ~ Amen 

January 25, 2015

Loving Mercy

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and 
to walk humbly with your God. ~ Micah 6:8

   God often speaks to me through music. Lately, two songs seem to play every time I turn on the radio: Mercy by Mattt Redman and Greater by MercyMe. Clearly God had something to tell me about His mercy and my great need of it.
   Reading the lyrics and searching Scripture I was, once again, amazed by His grace. Mercy is a worship song beginning and ending with these words, “I will kneel in the dust at the foot of the cross, where mercy paid for me.” Those lyrics evoke scenes of Mary knelt at the cross, a powerful picture of love and redemption that causes my heart to echo the chorus, “Oh may I never lose the wonder, oh, the wonder of Your mercy.”
   Greater is a joyful song that spurs more foot tapping than kneeling. The bridge of the song is peppy yet profound, “There’ll be days I lose the battle, grace says that it doesn’t matter, ‘cause the cross already won the war…I am learning to run freely, understanding just how He sees me, and it makes me love Him more and more.”
   Grasping grace and loving mercy is not a license to sin (Romans 6:1-2), but rather freedom from the condemnation of sin (Romans 8:1). The sin war was won on the cross. Therefore, grasping His grace breaks sins grasp on us. Coming to Christ, fallen and broken, we receive mercy that enables us to love Him more than our sin. Loving mercy will cause our knees to bow and our feet to dance, for truly, His grace is greater than ALL our sin: past, present, and future. Hallelujah! 

Dear Lord, Even as Your child I sin against You. May Your mercy cause my sinful heart to kneel 
and my redeemed soul to dance. Thank You for Your amazing grace. Teach me to love mercy more and 
to live in the freedom Your blood has bought for me. ~ Amen

January 18, 2015

Write the Word

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds;…Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 
so that your days and the days of your children may be many… Deuteronomy 11:18a, 20, 21a

   My daughter Jaclyn and her husband Mizael were married last April at an intimate and romantic wedding in Woolwich, Maine. When they returned from their honeymoon they moved right into their own little apartment. Ken and I were there to greet them and help them get situated. Afterwards, as we were getting ready to leave my new son-in-law stopped us, “Oh no, Mommy and Daddy you cannot leave yet. First, you must pray with us and bless our new home.” I held back tears of blessing, as we all held hands and prayed together.
   Recently, I was blessed by them again. I had stopped by for a quick visit and as I went to the refrigerator I could not help but notice Proverbs 16:3, colorful and largely written, taped to the freezer door. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” It brought a smile to both my face and my heart. 
   After a nice visit and before leaving I asked to use their restroom. When I opened the door the first thing I saw was Jeremiah 29:11 taped to the bathroom mirror, again colorful and largely written. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” 
   Driving home Deuteronomy 11:18-21 came to mind. One sure way to fix the Word of God in our hearts and minds is to write it in our homes. Jaclyn and Mizael are literally keeping the Word of God ever before them. Let us to do the same.  

Dear Lord, I am forever learning and am often amazed at who You use to teach me—even my children. 
Help me to fix Your Words in my heart and mind by boldly displaying them in my home. ~ Amen

January 11, 2015

Fear Not

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ 1 John 4:18 

   Fear is something we can all relate to. A look at the Greek word for fear, “phobos”, reveals the English word “phobia”. While one defines rational fear and the other irrational, they mean the same thing. “Fear” found 400 times in the Bible (KJV), ultimately means fear is no small matter.
   1 John 4:18 tells us that, “…fear has to do with punishment.” Searching Scripture I found fear began in the garden, after the fall, when Adam was afraid and hid from God (Genesis 3:10). Fear causes us to want to recoil and hide. Out of fear Elijah hid in the wilderness (1 Kings 19:3-4), David hid in a field (1 Samuel 20:24), and the disciples hid behind locked doors (John 20:19). Today, fear often causes us to hide within ourselves.  
   Still there is hope for, “…perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18). Christians do not have to be gripped or debilitated by fear for the words “fear not” are also found in Scripture. God is the first to utter them, “…Fear not, Abram; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1 KJV). And Christ is the last, “…Fear not; I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17 KJV). 
   How amazing that God relieves fear by stating who He is! Yet it should not be surprising for above all God is love (John 4:8, 16), and “perfect love drives out fear.” So the next time you are afraid, drive fear away by thinking about who God is and His perfect love for you (John 15:13, Ephesians 3:17-18).

Dear Lord, Thank You that Your perfect love causes fear to flee and faith to grow. 
Help me to think more of You that I might live fearlessly for You. ~ Amen

December 21, 2014

The Cost of Christmas
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  Luke 2:10-11, 13 (KJV)

   Last week began with Ken and I taking our daughter and son-in-law to see the Portland Symphony’s Magic of Christmas. Afterwards, we ate dinner and finished the evening taking a horse drawn wagon ride in Freeport. It was a wonderful, unforgettable time of enjoying one another and the promise of Christmas.
   Unfortunately, during a marathon day of shopping, the week ended in an opposite vein as I overheard remarks like, “I can’t find anything to get him...I’m not going to be able to make my car payment this month…I’ll be glad when Christmas is over!” 
   The cost of Christmas is high, for many of us, because we tend to over spend financially, emotionally, and in using our time. It is a sad reality for Christmas, according to God’s perfect design, is a time of “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10); a time of peace on earth and “good will toward men” (Luke 2:13). My shopping experience was light years from God’s perfect design. 
   The cost of Christmas was high for God, too. It cost Him His One and Only Son (John 1:14). God was willing to pay such a high price, not to give us stuff, but to give us relationship. Jesus came to earth, in person, so that we could have a personal relationship with God Himself. It is a priceless gift that eternally changes everything! Again, I was profoundly struck by the fact that time and relationship is the greatest gift of all. So next year I resolve to buy less and spend more time with those I love…for ultimately the true meaning of Christmas is relationship.

Dear Lord, This week please help me not to miss the true meaning of Christmas. Slow me down that I will make room for You 
and for others in my life each day. ~ Amen

December 7, 2014

A Time to Mourn

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to mourn and a time to dance. ~ Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 4

   Life can change in an instant! Early Thanksgiving morning holiday music was playing, and I was dancing in my heart, as Ken and I prepared for the festivities that were to come. Both our girls and their families would be joining us for a traditional turkey feast later in the day. Then my cell phone rang. It was my sister Patti telling me our sister Ellen had died. The music played on in the background, but I could no longer hear it, and the dance in my heart stopped cold. 
   Ellen’s passing was unexpected, and the fact that I had allowed too much time to pass since last having contact with her, multiplies my sorrow. Now I must mourn not only for what was, but for what will never be. The harsh reality is…I can never make up, or get back, the time lost with my sister or anyone else in my life. Harvey MacKay said it best, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it, you can never get it back.” 
   Time is not only a gift we are given, it is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Looking back, I lament I did not give Ellen enough time. It is night and now is my time to mourn. But I thank God for the promise that morning is coming (Psalm 30:5) and there will again be a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Looking ahead (Philippians 3:13 & 14, Proverbs 4:25), may you and I use our time wisely and give it as a gift to God first, and then to our family and friends.  

Dear Lord, Thank You for being with me in every season of my life; for bottling my tears when I cry, 
and providing the music when I dance. Today You have given me the gift of time,
 help me to spend it well, and share it with others. ~ Amen

November 23, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude

…Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” ~ John 11:41

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Philippians 4:6

   This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a holiday that conjures up images of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal and thanking God for His provisions. On this day in similar fashion, families, friends and loved ones will come together for a huge feast and offer up thanksgiving to God. 
  Contemplating thankfulness I thought of times when Jesus gave thanks. Not surprisingly most of them are at significant meals; the feeding of the four thousand (Mark 8:6), the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:19), and the last supper (Matthew 26:26-27). However, in John 11:41, right before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus gives thanks to the Father for simply hearing Him! This is so profound and sheds new light on Philippians 4:6. 
   Honestly, I had always surmised presenting my requests to God with thanksgiving meant thanking Him in advance for the answer to my prayers, not for the fact that He hears them. Most of us have experienced not being heard or listened to and it is a disheartening thing. Sometimes our spouses do not hear us. Sometimes our kids do not listen to us. Yet God does both. 
   He is the Creator who spoke the universe into existence (Genesis 1). He is the Ancient of Days who will judge all nations (Daniel 7:9-10). He is Almighty God and who are we that He is mindful of us (Psalm 8:3-4)? Yet, He is our heavenly Father who hears and listens to the prayers of His children. This Thanksgiving let us remember God not only knows us and loves us, He also hears and listens. That amazing fact should give us an attitude of gratitude each and every day.  

Dear Lord, How amazing that You hear me and listen to me when I talk to You. Cause the magnitude of that reality 
to grip my heart with thanksgiving. Father, I thank You that You hear me even now. ~ Amen

November 16, 2014

A “To Do” Good List

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. ~ Proverbs 3:27

   Most of us will never affect the world on a global level, yet that does not diminish the affect we can have in our own little corner of the world. The things we say or leave unsaid, the things we do or fail to do really do matter.
   Our days are busy; our “to do” list endless, for there is always something “to do.” Ever wonder how our daily “to do” list matches up to what God desires us “to do”?
   Scripture declares we are to do good whenever it is in our power to do it (Proverbs 3:21). Sometimes, I think, we fail to do the good we should, because we think we have to do something great. Scripture clearly teaches the contrary, “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” (Matthew 10:42 NLT). Doing good can be as simple as calling a friend who is heavy on our heart, or sending a card to someone we know is ill.
   Doing good does not have to be grand to have immense value to God. John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
   What a difference we would make in our little corner of the world, if we simply added one good thing to our “to do” list each day. Remembering it need not be great—it just needs to be good.

Dear Lord, You are so good to me. Please show me the good I can do for someone else today 
and give me the power to do it in Your name and for Your glory. ~ Amen

November 9, 2014

God Fights for Us

For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. ~ Deuteronomy 20:4

   This week we celebrate Veterans Day; a day intended to honor all our veterans, especially those who have served in war. It is observed on November 11 because it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect ending World War 1.
   Throughout history, many wars that were started in the physical realm have ceased. However, the spiritual war begun by Satan’s celestial mutiny (Revelation 12:7-9) still wages. Defeated by Michael and God’s angel army (v. 8), the battlefield moved from heaven to earth (v. 9). Today, if you are a Christian believer make no mistake about it, you are at war! And if a soldier goes into battle without armor, he cannot expect to be victorious! Therefore, Paul urges every believer to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).  
   We go to war daily and it is the full armor of God that guarantee’s us victory in our everyday battles. Covered in God’s armor we are able to “…stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6: 11). We face a vast army, but the battle is not ours, it is the Lord’s (2 Chronicles 20:15) and He will fight for us (Deuteronomy 20:4). Even when we fall short, or forget our armor trying to fight for ourselves and lose in battle, we need not lose heart; God ultimately wins and will end this war (2 Thessalonians 2:8). 
   So as we honor those who have fought for us, let us not forget to honor the Lord who fights for us even now.

Dear Lord, You fight for me. You alone make me victorious. Help me to put on the full armor of God 
so that I will win today’s battles. Thank You for winning the war. ~ Amen

November 2, 2014

God Given Authority

...“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. 
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  ~ Daniel 2:20 - 21

   It is once again time to cast our votes for elected officials and sadly by the time we enter the poll booth most of us will have had it with negative campaign commercials and banal election rhetoric. Frankly, by Election Day, most of us while dreading the outcome, just want it to be over.
   Voting is a privilege for which many have given their lives. The right to vote is something that we should value deeply; so we should always vote. However, we need not fear the result of any election. Ultimately, though our hands cast a ballot the winner is determined by the hand of God for “…he deposes kings and raises up others…” (Daniel 2:21). Sometimes it is His good pleasure to put Godly men in office and at other times it is not, “For Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth’” (Romans 9:17). Therefore, no matter who is in office, the good or the bad, God’s divine plans and purposes are never in danger of being thwarted. 
   Those in authority would have no power at all if it were not given to them from above (John 19: 11), for all authority has been established by God (Romans 13:1) and “…the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes…” (Daniel 4:17). So no matter who becomes our next governor or even our next president, we can rest in the knowledge that they are God’s choice, even if they were not ours. 

Dear Lord, Help me realize Your sovereignty in every aspect of life. Help me find rest in the fact You are always in control and nothing surprises You. 
Empower me to do my part and leave the results to You. ~ Amen

October 26, 2014

Get Some Rest

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” ~ Mark 6: 31

   We know our lives are busy, but perhaps we forget that Jesus can relate to us even on this level. Jesus and the disciples knew what it was like to be so busy, they could not find time to eat. Sound familiar? The truth is we can get so caught up in the rat race of life that we forget to take care of ourselves both spiritually and physically. Christ’s solution for the hustle and bustle of life was time alone with Him (spiritual health) and rest (physical health).
   Doing can be addicting, “For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there” (Isaiah 28:10). The problem is if we continue “doing” without heeding God’s call to spend quiet time with Him to rest, we will ultimately fall, “…as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured” (Isaiah 28:13).
   The “rest” Jesus speaks of in Mark literally means “to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect strength.” Scripture teaches us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and that those who wait upon the Lord “will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
   This week if our activity becomes captivity, let us hear the voice of our Savior inviting us to “Come…to a quiet place and get some rest.” Then let us stop what we are doing and graciously accept His invitation. 

Dear Lord, You know how busy life can be and how tired I can become. Thank You for not only giving me permission to rest but inviting me to do so.  
Help me remember it is in You and with You I find the greatest rest. ~ Amen

October 12, 2014

Breathtaking Change

He changes times and seasons… ~ Daniel 2:21a

…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
 though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. ~ Isaiah 1:18b

   The great splendor of this season to me is the changing of the leaves. French philosopher, Albert Camus said it beautifully, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Of course some years the colors of God’s natural arbor bouquet are more spectacular than others.
   I remember one autumn, a couple years ago when the leaves seemed to change overnight and their colors were particularly breathtaking. My dear friend and I were walking the Bar Harbor carriage trails, which were carpeted gold and brown from fallen leaves and pine needles. The sound of Jordan Stream rushing over rocks added harmonious background music to our hike. The striking contrast of a branch of amber leaves against the gray of rock would give us pause, it was so beautiful. Then as the trail grew steep and we came around a bend into a clearing, the sun shone bright upon the landscape setting the red maples ablaze and making the yellow beech almost blinding. We stood amazed, it was so glorious.
   This tends to be true in life. God worked the miracle of changing our hearts instantly, and as we walk through life we pause every once in awhile and admire the beauty of the changes He has made. Yet there are those special moments in a clearing, when we capture an aerial view of all He has done in us, through the light of His great love. It is then that the glory of His transforming power once again causes us to stand in awe and takes our breath away.  

Dear Lord, May I never get over the change You have made in me--a sinner by nature, a saint by Your grace. 
May I walk in the light of Your love so that the transformation You have worked in me is clearly visible. ~ Amen

October 5, 2014

Our God Sings

“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, 
He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” ~ Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV) 

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. ~ Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26

   Last week I had the privilege of co-anchoring a radio broadcast for a local Christian radio station. Their motto is, “The message is in the music” which got me thinking about music and singing in Scripture.
   Doing a little research, I discovered something amazing. The word “sing” or its derivative appears in the Bible 156 times (in the NIV) and the word “music” appears 90 times. Singing and music are literally found cover to cover in Scripture; first in Genesis (31:27) and finally in Revelation (15:3). 
   Moses and the Israelites sang to the Lord, after He gave them victory over the Egyptians (Exodus 15:1). And while there will be new songs to sing in heaven (Revelation 5:9; 14:3), those who are victorious will once again sing the “song of God’s servant Moses” (Revelation 15:3)! Still more amazing to me, is that God sings! Scripture tells us in Zephaniah (3:17) that God rejoices over us with singing and in Matthew (26:30) and Mark (14:26) we see that Jesus sang a hymn with His disciples after the Last Supper. Biblical scholars believe the hymn to be Psalm 118 which says, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Imagine Jesus singing those words, just hours, before dying on the cross! 
   God loves music when His message is in it. So take some time this week to sing your heart out to God. When you do, expect to sense His presence, for the God who sings also inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3 KJV). 

Dear Lord, Thank You for the gift of music and song. How amazing that You rejoice over me with singing! 
Help me, like Moses, to sing praises to You, the One who gives me victory. ~ Amen

September 28, 2014

We Are BUT Christians

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 
~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

   Life can be confusing, but God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Life can be unfair, but God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6). Life can be hard, but God promises us victory (Deuteronomy 20:4). How do we, as Christians, reconcile the reality of this life with the Truth of who God is and who we are in Christ? 
  First, we must understand that the Christian life is not a care free life. Jesus clearly says "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). Our Savior walked the road to Calvary, so at some level in this life we will walk that same path, if we are following Him. 
  Therefore, we may be “hard pressed on every side,” BUT we are not crushed for “…you are a shield around me, O LORD…” (Psalm 3:3). Sometimes life simply does not make sense and we may be greatly perplexed, BUT we are not in despair for “…you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you…” (Psalm 25:5). We may be persecuted, BUT we are not abandoned for God promises, “…Never will I leave you…” (Hebrews 13:5b). We may even be struck down, BUT still we are not destroyed, as death is not the ultimate defeat, but rather the eternal victory for Christians (Philippians 1:21). 
   The devil can bring his whole arsenal against us, BUT “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). No matter what comes, we are BUT Christians!!!

Dear Lord, I am not crushed for You shield me. I am not in despair for You are my hope. I am not abandoned for You are always with me. I will never be destroyed for You have given me eternal life. Praise Your holy name. ~ Amen

September 21, 2014

The True Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” ~ John 15:1

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5

   After the Last Supper, Christ went to the Mount of Olives as usual, with His disciples (Luke 22:39). Most Biblical scholars believe John 15 and 16 to be the discourse Christ gave His disciples during their final familiar walk. Perhaps as they passed by the great golden vine on the front of the temple Christ began, “I am the true vine…” (John 15:1). 
   Christ is the vine and we are the branches. The single purpose of a branch is to bear fruit—not produce it. It is the “true vine” which produces fruit. A branch can only bear the fruit which the vine produces through it. Therefore, as Christians if we want to “bear much fruit” we must “remain” in Christ (John 15:4). In the Greek “remains” means “to continue to be present; to be held, kept, continually; to remain as one.” Remaining in Christ implies a sense of stillness. Often it is our way to get busy in order to “bear fruit.” This is not the way of the kingdom. Scripture teaches, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  
   There in the stillness, in the continual presence of the “true vine,” we come to grasp the truth, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). You and I can do NOTHING apart from Christ that has any eternal value or merit. In ourselves we certainly cannot produce the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23), for we are but branches. It is Christ alone who enables us to “bear much fruit” for He is the “true vine.”

Dear Lord, Help me understand it is You alone, the true vine, who produces fruit in my life. I cannot produce fruit I can only bear the fruit You produce through me. I can do nothing without You. May I remain in You that I might bear much fruit for Your honor and glory. ~ Amen

August 31, 2014

The Blessing of Work

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ~ Genesis 2:15

   This week as we celebrate Labor Day, let us not forget that work is a blessing. While at times work may seem like a part of the curse; it is not. The truth is, God did curse the ground, making Adam’s work harder (Genesis 3:14-19), but work actually originated prior to the fall (Genesis 2:15).
   You see, work was part of the blessing of paradise. This fact should not be surprising to us because we are created in God’s image and Jesus said, “…My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). The reality is we are the work of God and God has work for us to do. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Every Christian has important, eternal work to accomplish. The question is, “Are we doing it?”
   Sometimes, in our desire to do great works for God, we forget that it is not so much what work we do, as it is who we are working for. Scripture tells us to do all things for God and for His glory (1 Corinthians 2:31). The reason being, when we do even small works, like giving a cup of cold water, it has eternal value (Matthew 10:42).  
   Jesus brought His Father glory on the earth by finishing the work God had given Him to do (John 17:4). May we do the same, for what greater blessing is there than to bring glory to God by working for Him, no matter what work we do. 

Dear Lord, Help me to see work as a blessing. Enable me to work, not for my boss or even for myself today, 
but rather to work for You and to bring You glory in the process. ~ Amen

August 24, 2014

Taken Away

“…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” ~ Job 1:21

   The Lord is teaching me that He is sovereign over all. Last week as I wept after saying goodbye to my daughter, Kaitlyn, my precious grandchild, Scarlett and my son-in-law, Brandon, Job 1:21 resounded in my mind. Surely to have loved ones move 2800 miles away does not compare with Job’s loss of all his children at once. In my head I know it is not the same, but as I watched them drive off, quite honestly my heart could not tell the difference.
  Job’s response to such loss is amazing, for it is both natural and supernatural. Naturally, grief stricken he tears his robe and shaves his head. Supernaturally, filled with praise he falls face down in worship (Job 1:20). I wish I had responded like Job, but I did not. Instead I wrestled with God, questioning His plan and my pain. My questions took me back twenty-three years to my miscarriage of Kaitlyn’s fraternal twin. The Lord has taken away two of my babies; one by miscarriage, the other by moving; both an indescribable loss.  
   While crying out to the Lord, patiently He brought me first to Job and then to Jesus. Like Job, He reminded me that all I have is His, so I must hold all I possess with open hands. And like Jesus, my suffering Savior, He reminded me that there is always divine purpose in permitted suffering, so I must learn to view, even pain, as a gift. It all goes back to this central truth: “The LORD gave,” (His only begotten Son), “and the LORD has taken away” (all my sin), “may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Dear Lord, You are sovereign and whether You choose to give or take away, You alone are worthy of worship and praise. ~ Amen

August 3, 2014

Do Not Let

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. ~ John 14:1

   Last week while reading John 14:1, three simple words, “Do not let…,” jumped off the page like flashing neon lights into the night. My eyes were fixed on them as their deeply implied truth hit me; a troubled heart is a mattered of choice.
   In this verse, the same Greek word “tarasso” is used for both the word “let” and “troubled”, and it means, “to agitate a thing by the movement of its parts to and fro.” Therefore, a heart that goes back and forth between belief and doubt, faith and fear, wonder and worry, is a troubled heart. The definition made me think of the doubled minded man in James tossed and blown like a wave by the wind (James 1:5-8).
   According to Scripture the cure for both a troubled heart and double mindedness is the same; it is belief (John14:1b; James 1:6). This reality is easier said than done, easier to write about than live out. Perhaps that is why God always causes me to practice what I teach. It is a painful process and frankly sometimes I fail. 
  This past week was marked by bad news, tears, sickness, transportation problems, work issues and scheduling conflicts. Oh, the entire week was not terrible. However, the difficulties loomed so large their shadow nearly obscured the blessings. The end of the week found me on my knees, crying out to God, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) 
   Belief in God calms the heart. Jesus knew we would have troubles in this world, yet He admonishes us to take heart, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). So today, no matter what is going on in your world, believe God in it and “Do not let your hearts be troubled…

Dear Lord, Help me to not let my heart be troubled when troubles come my way, but to believe in You more and more. 
In You alone is where I can find peace in all circumstances. ~ Amen

July 20, 2014

Beware of Identity Theft

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.  ~ John 13:23

   The apostle John was so secure in Jesus’ love for him, that he literally identified himself by it! He knew who he was in Christ, he was the “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John identified himself with those exact words five times in his epistle, John 13:23, being the first. This identification was not born out of arrogance, but grew out of John’s intimate knowledge of his Savior. For John it was as simple as the beloved children’s song, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” 
   Why then is it so difficult for us? You see every true believer could rightfully identify themselves just as John did. In fact, each of us is not only the disciple Jesus loved (past tense); we are the disciple Jesus loves (this present moment). That is who we are, yet do we dare identify ourselves in that way? Unfortunately, the answer for most of us is a resounding, “No!” The reason being, the defeated enemy of our souls is the ultimate identity thief (John 10:10). If he cannot have our souls he will try to steal our identity in Christ, hoping to render us ineffective for God’s kingdom in the process. 
   So know who you are in Christ, and do not allow the evil one to steal your identity. Dare to look in the mirror and say aloud, “I am the disciple whom Jesus loves.” It is an empowering truth that causes the spiritual identity thief to run back into the pit he came from (James 4:7). 

Dear Lord, Help me to know, as John did, that I am the disciple whom You love. 
Teach me to find my identity in Your great love for me. ~ Amen

July 13, 2014

The Desires of Your Heart

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. ~ Psalm 37:4

   Psalm 37:4 declares, when we delight in the LORD, He in turn is delighted to give us the desires of our heart, both big and small.
    One overcast and chilly spring day a couple months ago my dear friend and I were searching for sand dollars on Seal Harbor Beach. Walking the receding shoreline of low tide, I asked the Lord to give me just one whole sand dollar, believing in my heart He would. Then I saw it; a perfectly round, sandy white object lying on the wet sand, but before I could get it a wave swept in and carried it away. It was still in sight, but out of my reach. Being sure it was the answer to my prayer, I ripped my sneakers and socks off and waded into the cold water after it. But it wasn’t a sand dollar at all. It was just a piece of plastic! 
   A bit discouraged I continued my search barefooted walking away from the water and towards the parking lot reciting Psalm 37:4 in my head. And then I saw it; perfectly round, sandy gray—a real, whole sand dollar! Tickled pink I wanted to tell my friend, but keeping along the water’s edge she was now quite a distance from me. Looking down at the sand in her direction I gasped as I saw another one, and a few feet from it was another, and then another, and another…until I had seven whole sand dollars of varying shades and sizes!  
   We drove away all giggles, declaring the goodness of God. He is not only the God who gives us the desires of our hearts, but the one who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). 

Dear Lord, You are so good, how can I not delight myself in You. Thank you for giving me the desires of my heart, 
no matter how small that desire may be. I love you Lord. ~ Amen

July 6, 2014

Coming Home

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. ~ Psalm 23:6b

   Dorothy, from the Wizard of OZ, said it best, “There’s no place like home.” If you’ve ever been away from home for an extended period of time, no doubt you understand and agree with her sentiment. Psalm 23 literally recounts a full year in a sheep’s life and, in a sense, is about the joy of coming home.
    The Psalm begins with the blissful declaration, “The LORD is my Shepherd,” and then takes us “from the green pastures and still waters of the home ranch, up through the mountain passes onto the high tablelands…down the foothills and back…home…” (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, p. 137). The joyous statement, “And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” is the Psalm’s conclusion. 
   The journey has not been an easy one. The Good Shepherd has led His sheep through “the valley of the shadow of death” and protected them in the very presence of their enemies. At times the terrain was rough, danger was near, storms raged. Yet, He brought His flock safely through it all and in the process the love between the Shepherd and His sheep grew deeper as their bond grew stronger. 
   The word “dwell” in the Hebrew is “yashab” which means “to remain, to stay”, but it also means “to marry.” How appropriate, for after all they have endured together the Good Shepherd and His sheep are committed to one another forever, even as a husband and wife. Finally home again, the sheep completely content, the Shepherd utterly delighted to “dwell” together forever, the ultimate happily ever after!

Dear Lord, This world is not my home. We are on a journey here and I know I can count on You to lead me and protect me. 
Yet, I long for home where we will dwell together forever. ~ Amen

June 29, 2014


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; ~ Psalm 23:6A

   The Word of God is living and active, so despite having written one devotional on the first part of Psalm 23:6 there is still more to say. It seems the Lord would not release me from this verse until I have shared with you what He has shared with me. Truly, it is awesome, that as we follow the Good Shepherd He follows us with “goodness and mercy” all the days of our lives (v.6a).
   However, in light of the entire psalm, the truth of verse six is even more poignant, for it is the culmination that proves the Good Shepherd not only goes before and behind us but literally surrounds us. He is in front leading, for He “leads me beside the still waters” (v. 2) and “leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (v. 3). He is above as we pass under His rod, whether to be counted or corrected, and the knowledge that He is watching over us brings comfort (v. 4). The picture of the Good Shepherd on hands and knees, preparing the tablelands for His flock by plucking every poisonous plant (v. 5), beautifully portrays how He upholds us. Then finally in verse six He follows us with “goodness and mercy” (v. 6a).
   Psalm 23 is a tribute to the Good Shepherd and the all encompassing care He gives to His sheep. He literally surrounds His flock with guidance, protection, goodness, mercy and love. Having such a Shepherd, we need have want of nothing (v. 1).

Dear Lord, What comfort it is to know You literally surround me with Your loving, tender care. 
Truly what more could I possibly want or need? ~ Amen

June 15, 2014

Oh God, Our Father

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 
Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" ~ Luke 11:11-13

   I wept bitterly in the church parking lot after a sermon on these words of Jesus. I was in my mid-twenties, married and my poor husband tried but simply could not console me. He had no idea why I was crying and it took a while for the sobs to subside enough for me to try to verbalize the pain the sermon awakened in me.​
   You see my earthly father did not “know how to give good gifts” to his children. As a verbally and physically abusive alcoholic he abandoned our family when I was eleven. From that point on there was little to no contact and when there was each encounter was riddled with hurt. 
   However, that was not the reason for my tears that bright Sunday morning in Chicago. I wept because I realized that even after being a Christian for fifteen years my relationship with my earthly father still marred my image of my heavenly one. I realized after all those years I still struggled with seeing God as a bigger scarier replica of my father and therefore did not completely believe He loved me or wanted to give me good gifts. 
   This week as we celebrate Father’s Day there are many who have/or had the blessing of a loving and caring father. But there are many, like me, who did not and for us I pray we see God as the perfect Father He is and not as our father is/or was. Do not allow your earthly father’s failures to keep you from fully experiencing your heavenly Father’s love. 

Dear Lord, Thank You for being what no earthly father can be—perfect. 
Thank You for loving me unconditionally and giving me every good gift in my life. ~ Amen

June 6, 2014

Psalm 23: Goodness and Mercy

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; ~ Psalm 23:6a

   Psalm 23 exhorts the loving, self-sacrificing, attentive care of the Good Shepherd to His sheep. Verse six summarizes all David has said so far, for surely, as God’s sheep we should understand our privileged position. This bold yet simple statement, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a) implies implicit trust and confidence in the One who controls our lives and destinies. It is a boast and exclamation that no matter what happens in this life, goodness and mercy will result.
   This truth is easily proclaimed when life is going smoothly. However, when our world is falling apart can we still honestly echo David’s declaration? Do we really believe that goodness and mercy ultimately follows even calamity? Do we trust what the Good Shepherd is doing in our lives even when it makes no sense to us? If we are honest, we have all feared or worried at some point, that perhaps God did not really know what He was doing with us and wrongly assumed we could do better ourselves. In retrospect we realize with gratitude, that even then, God followed us with His goodness and mercy. And He did so because He loves us. How blessed we are!
    Amazingly this following is two-fold, for when we walk close to the Good Shepherd, basking in His great love, goodness and mercy will literally follow us as our legacy and we will leave these virtues behind wherever we go. Such a legacy is not only a blessing to others; it is a blessing to God Himself!  

Dear Lord, You follow me with Your goodness and mercy so that goodness and mercy might follow me as a legacy. How amazing to know that You bless me so that I, in turn, can be a blessing to others, which in turn, blesses You! Surely, You are so good to me! ~ Amen

May 18, 2014

Psalm 23: A Cup Overflowing

…You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ~ Psalm 23:5

   The Hebrew word for “anoint” in Psalm 23:5 is “dashen” which means “to make fat; to become prosperous.” Often when we think about becoming fat or prosperous we think in physical terms. We think of food, material possessions, money. However, it is a spiritual fatness, and prosperity that is suggested here.
   When people were anointed in the Old Testament, it was usually linked to their calling from the Lord. Prophets (1 Kings 19:16), priests (Exodus 30:30, 40:13), and kings (1 Samuel 16:3, 13) were anointed. Furthermore, the tabernacle and everything in it was also anointed, thereby every part was consecrated unto the Lord and deemed holy (Exodus 40:9). 
   If we are in Christ, we have been anointed by God Himself (2 Corinthians 1:21). There is a sacred calling on our lives. We are His prophets as we proclaim the Word of the Lord. We are His royal priesthood as we declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9). We are joint-heirs with King Jesus (Romans 8:17). Truly, He has made us “fat” and “prosperous” spiritually by His anointing. 
   However, we must not forget that as we share in the overflowing cup of God’s goodness and mercy through Jesus Christ, that it was His overflowing cup of suffering in the garden and upon the cross that has granted us such blessing. Is it not fitting then, that as we share in His blessing, we too should share in His suffering? Therefore, let us not scorn His cup of suffering when we must but sip from it, but rather let us rejoice that the overflowing cup of the wine of His blood causes our cup to eternally overflow with blessing.  

Dear Lord, Truly my cup of blessing overflows because Your cup of suffering overflowed on Calvary. 
Help me to rejoice today, even if I must share in Your suffering in some small way, for it is only fitting. 
The day will come when I will share only blessings, and what a glorious day that will be, but until then help me to 
humbly bare a cross that one day I might wear a crown. ~ Amen

May 4, 2014

Psalm 23: Anointed

…You anoint my head with oil;… ~Psalm 23:5

   This week we continue our study of David’s most beloved psalm, in which he poetically recounts the major events in a full year of a sheep’s life. David takes us from the provision and safety of the home ranch, “out into the green pastures, along the still waters, up through the mountain valleys to the high tablelands of summer” (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, p. 114).
   The high tablelands appear the perfect place and summer the perfect time for the sheep. However, both bring problems of their own; nose flies, scabs and the rut. The only remedy is for the shepherd to anoint the sheep.
   Nose flies can wreak havoc on a flock causing immense irritation. Anointing the sheep’s head with oil at the first sign of flies brings relief. Scab is a parasitical disease common among sheep and spread by direct contact. Since sheep naturally rub heads it can spread quickly within a flock. The only effective antidote is dipping the sheep completely in oil, except for the head, which is usually anointed by hand. Summer is rutting season. The rams fight furiously for the favor of the ewes and in the process some are injured, maimed, or even killed. Sparing his flock the shepherd anoints their heads with oil so they merely glance off each other during these great crashing battles.  
   Likewise the Good Shepherd desires to continuously anoint His sheep with the calming oil of His Holy Spirit to ward of pests, disease, and conflict. Anointed we are unbothered by pesky difficulties, uncontaminated by the disease of sin, and unscathed by conflict. 

Dear Lord, Thank You for anointing my head with the oil of Your Holy Spirit. Please anoint me anew today that I might face difficulties calmly, 
claim victory over sin confidently, and defuse conflict readily. ~ Amen

April 20, 2014

The Stone Was Rolled Away For Me

 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. ~ Matthew 28:2
   Only two earthquakes are recorded in the gospels—one after Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51-54); the other after Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 28:2). The quake after His crucifixion broke open the tombs of many holy people who were raised bodily from the dead at that moment (Matthew 27:52-53).
   However, the scenario is quite different for the resurrection of the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. Read Matthew 28: 1-11 and see Christ’s tomb was empty before the stone was rolled away! We must understand the stone was not rolled away to let Christ out—it was rolled away to let the women, His disciples, and the world in! When the women told Peter and John of the empty tomb, the disciples raced to see it for themselves—John arrived first but stopped at the entrance. Peter sped right past John and into the tomb (John 20:3-7). However, when John finally entered the tomb, he suddenly “perceived” with his heart what the empty tomb was evidence of and believed Christ was resurrected (John 20:8).  
   This Easter let us, like Mary Magdalene, look at the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1) and be filled with joy by what we see (Matthew 28:8)—the stone rolled away for you and for me! Let us, like John, not simply understand with our minds, but rather perceive with our whole hearts the truth that Jesus is alive!
   To truly grasp this is to respond to the living GOD, just as the women did that first Easter morn, by falling at His feet and worshiping Him (Matthew 28:9), for He has risen just as He said He would (Matthew 26:6)!  

My Glorious, Risen Savior, I worship You not just for what You have done, but simply because of Who You are! You are the Living God, the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Hallelujah! ~ Amen

April 6, 2014

Heart Burn

…"Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" ~ Luke 24:32

   Statistically, 25 million people regularly suffer from heartburn. Physically, heartburn is unpleasant so we try to avoid it, explaining antacid sales over $10 billion annually. However, spiritually speaking, the body of Christ could use a serious case of heart burn like Cleopas and his friend experienced on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).
   These two believers are walking together, talking about Jesus, when all at once He joins in their stroll and conversation (v.13-15). Beginning with Moses, Jesus reveals to them all Scripture says concerning Him (v.27). Christ’s revelation of Himself is so profound they urge Jesus to stay with them (v.29) and so He does. Yet it is not until He breaks bread with them that their eyes are opened to who He is (v.31).  
   Suddenly they understand the Lord had been with them all along, for as He spoke their hearts were burning within them (v.32). The Greek word for “burning” in this verse literally means to “consume with fire.” How appropriate, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:2; Hebrew 12:29). Unlike the physical heartburn we try to quench, spiritual heart burn ignites and spreads. When we experience God in a heart burning way our response, like these two men, will be to go at once and tell others (v.33-35).
   When was the last time the Lord opened Scripture up to you and set your heart on fire? When was the last time God consumed your heart with a blaze of fresh revelation so that you simply could not keep it to yourself? If it’s been awhile, pray this week for a serious case of spiritual heart burn.

Dear Lord, set my heart on fire this week as You use Your Word to reveal Yourself to me in a fresh, clear and powerful way. Walk and talk with me in a way that is so real it ignites my desire to tell others about You. ~ Amen

March 30, 2014

The Root of Fruit 

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

   We all want to have fruitful lives, but few of us understand how to make that happen. Somehow we have this misguided, self-centered notion that it is up to us to bear fruit, but it’s not! It is the Lord who bears fruit in us and through us (John 15: 4-5). The Lord makes it perfectly clear to Jeremiah that our role in fruit bearing is simply to trust in Him.
   Trusting in God makes us like trees “planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream.” Trust connects us to our source of nutrition and growth. Christians are to be planted by the Lord with our roots growing towards the streams of living water flowing from His very throne (Revelation 22: 1). The root system is vital to any plant or tree and what grows above the surface is directly related to what is buried underneath.  
   God tells us if we trust in Him, He “never fails to bear fruit” in us and through us. The fruit He bears in us is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit He bears through us is that which is ripe unto harvest for the kingdom (Colossians 1:6, John 4:35). Furthermore, we can trust God to always bear fruit in us and through us at the perfect time and season (Psalm 1:3). We can have fruitful lives. But we must remember, it is the Lord, not ourselves, who makes us bear much fruit.  

Dear Lord, so often I complicate Your simple truths and wear myself out in the process. Help me daily to put my trust and confidence in You and then to be abundantly grateful as I see You bearing fruit in and through me. Make me fruitful I pray. ~ Amen

March 23, 2014

For Such a Time as This

And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? ~ Esther 4:14b

​   God is unmistakably and miraculously present in the book of Esther, though His name is strangely absent. The Jews have been sentenced to death, yet all is not lost, as God uses a woman to bring deliverance to a nation.
   Mordecai urges Esther to save her people, for he knows her position and relationship with the king uniquely empowers her to accomplish the impossible. If Esther refuses to act, she and her father’s family will perish (v.14a). However, the greater tragedy is that “relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place” (v.14a). Thereby, Esther would miss being used of God.  
   God always works in us before He works through us (Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God, p.43) Surely God worked in Esther during the three days of prayer and fasting she and the Jews participated in (v.16) prior to her actions, whereby God worked through her. The enemy was defeated, a people saved, and Esther had the honor of taking part in God’s work.  
   Scripture tells us that God has prepared work for each of us to do (Ephesians 2:10) and that as children of God we have come into a royal position, not only as heirs with the Prince of Peace (Roman 8:17), but as the bride of the King of kings (Revelation 17:14, 19:7). Like Esther, we do not have our position without purpose, for we too have “come to royal position for such a time as this.” This is our time to be used of God. Let us fast and pray and act. Who knows, but God might work through us to save our nation (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Dear Lord, thank You for raising me to a royal position I do not deserve, and for giving me work to do. Please work mightily in me, so that You can do a mighty work through me. Empower me to make a difference in this world for You. ~ Amen

March 16, 2014

Love Secure 

What a man desires is unfailing love… ~ Proverbs 19:22
…give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love… ~ Psalm 107:8

   We live in an insecure world. National security failed us on 9/11 and Social Security is on the brink of collapse. Families are falling apart. Spouses have become strangers. Parents are overextended. Children are rebellious. Friends are few.
   More than wanting to be secure in our homes or at the bank we long to be secure in love. Webster defines secure as, “firmly fixed, not worried, reliable…” We want a love that is “firmly fixed” so that it never gives way, comes loose, or unravels. We want a love free from worry. We desire a love that relieves our fears, dispels our doubts, and vanquishes our vulnerability. We want a love that is “reliable,” so that it never stops or is lost.
   Such love this side of heaven is rare. We’ve seen movies like “The Notebook,” and perhaps can even think of a couple in our own lives whose love for each other is so secure, pure and beautiful it brings tears to our eyes. True love is what we long for most and that longing tugs relentlessly at our heart strings.  
   And here’s the good news, God offers everyone true love! If we are a child of God we have the unfailing love of the Father, the sacrificial love of the Son, and the indwelling love of the Spirit. We are love secure. I pray you have that special someone on earth who reflects God’s perfect love to you. But more importantly I pray you know the unfailing love of God. If you do you are doubly blessed and love secure times two! 

Dear Lord, Help me be secure in Your unfailing love for me and enable me to reflect Your perfect love to the people in my life I love the most. ~ Amen

February 16, 2014

Psalm 23: A Prepared Table

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; ~ Psalm 23:5a (NKJV)

   The plateaus in the highlands are the perfect grazing spot in summer. However, these areas, also called tablelands, had to be prepared by the shepherd before he brought his flock there to feed. Some of the indigenous plants were poisonous, so the shepherd would go before his sheep and pluck out these venomous floras. (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, p. 106). This process was often done on hands and knees—the shepherd literally becoming like a sheep in order to eradicate the deadly culprit.
   Pondering this I was struck by how it mirrors Christ’s incarnation. He became like us in order to save us from sin and death (Philippians 2:8). This act of love and provision is commemorated at the table of communion, which Christ Himself established and prepared (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Two thousand years later it is still a table at which we can find strength even in the presence of our enemies—just as Jesus did in Judas’ presence (John 13). 
   Whenever we partake in the Lord’s Supper, a memorial to all the blessings we have in Christ, let us not forget that, in the highlands, there is another table the Good Shepherd is preparing for His sheep. “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isaiah 25:6). This very moment Christ is preparing a place for us (John 14:2-3). That means more than just making ready our heavenly home; it means preparing the table for the wedding supper of the Lamb as well (Revelation 19:9). You see our Good Shepherd is also the Lord of hosts.

Dear Lord, Help me remember, each time I take communion, that it is a privilege to eat 
at the King’s table. How glorious to know that when Your kingdom comes I will 
sit with You at Your table in the highlands of heaven (Luke 22:18). ~ Amen

February 9, 2014

Psalm 23: Rod and Staff of Comfort

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4b (NKJV)

   So far in Psalm 23:4 we have seen that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we as believers need fear no evil, for the Good Shepherd is with us. Yet beyond His mere presence providing comfort, His rod and staff do as well.
   The rod and staff were important “tools of the trade” for a shepherd. The rod was a heavy wooden club, with sharp stones or nails embedded in one end. This intimidating weapon was used to beat off predators such as lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34-36). The staff was not a weapon, but a walking stick about six feet long and usually with a crook at one end. It was used to guide a wayward sheep back in the right direction or to save sheep that had gotten themselves into trouble. It was also used by the shepherd, at the end of the day, to count his sheep. The staff was held over the narrow opening of the sheepfold and the sheep were counted as they passed under it (Leviticus 27:32).  
   I believe it is no coincidence that both these tools of the shepherd were crafted from a tree; for so is the tool of the Savior. The cross of Calvary acts as both rod and staff. The nails embedded in each end eternally beat off the lion who seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8-11). The work of Christ on the cross both saves and guides us, and at the end of time we will pass under the shadow of the cross and into our heavenly sheepfold-home and be safe at last (Ezekiel 20:37-38). That is our great comfort.  

Dear Lord, How precious is Your cross; for it is both the rod and staff by which You comfort me. 
May I daily be grateful for and strengthened by the work You did there. ~ Amen

January 26, 2014

Psalm 23: Fear No Evil

I will fear no evil; for You are with me; ~ Psalm 23:4a (NKJV)

   There is a spiritual link, between the presence of God and the absence of fear, in the life of every true believer. The presence of God does not always eradicate evil as we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” but it should cause us not to fear it.
   Jesus declared to His twelve disciples, ten of whom would be martyred, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28a). He could say this for He knew He would conquer sin, death, and the grave through His own death and resurrection (2 Timothy 1:9-10). Ultimately, it is awareness of the perfect love of the Good Shepherd that casts out fear from His flock (1 John 4:18). 
   The presence of God through difficult times is a very personal thing, as seen by how the reference to the Lord goes from “He” (v. 1-3) to “You” (v. 4). Yes, He makes us lie down in green pastures and He leads us beside the still waters, but oh when the dark comes and the enemy casts his eerie shadow over my path, then oh Lord, “You are with me.” You are not behind me or in front of me; You are beside me and no doubt, at times, carrying me. 
   So in our darkest hour we can be sure that our sweet Savior is not only with us but very close to us; close enough to bottle all our tears (Psalm 56:8). You see, if God is our salvation, whom or what shall we fear (Psalm 27:1)? The answer: no one and no evil.

Dear Lord, The world is a scary place but even in the shadow of death I will fear no evil 
for You are with me and You have defeated all evil with Your goodness. ~ Amen

January 19, 2014

Psalm 23: Shadow of Death

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, ~ Psalm 23: 4a (NKJV)

   Verse four is a turning point in Psalm 23. Till now there have been only green pastures, still waters, and paths of righteousness. Then suddenly we find ourselves walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.” At first glance this may seem startling negative, but this verse has been used throughout the years to comfort countless dying saints, and with good reason.
   First, notice that we “walk through” this valley. We do not hasten our steps, as if pursued by danger; we do not run in terror, we simply walk. Our gentle stroll implies a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), for God gives divine grace to His faithful servants in death (Psalm 116:15). I have seen this grace poured out and been awed by it. Furthermore, Christians “walk through” this valley; they do not stay in it. It is a passage; not a destination. There is an implied promise that we will come out the other side.  
   The “valley of the shadow of death,” according to the original Hebrew, is a steep valley, a narrow gorge. In other words, it is a valley where you feel closed in, vulnerable to ambush, an open target for beastly prey. Therefore, this valley could be representative of any dark season in our lives, not just our actual physical death. In either case, and no matter how menacing, this valley is but a shadow. 
  "Death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Someone has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man's pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us." (Charles Spurgeon)

Dear Lord, Thank You for the divine grace You pour out during my darkest hours. 
Even in death I can claim the words of Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? 
Where, O death, is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55) for Jesus You have removed the sting of death 
and all that remains is a shadow with no power to harm me. Praise Your Holy name. ~ Amen

January 12, 2014

Psalm 23: Paths of Righteousness

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. ~ Psalm 23:3b

   God’s Word is amazing! A verse you have read a hundred times can suddenly burst forth with such deep truth that it takes your breath away. Psalm 23:3 is such a verse!
   God is so gracious as, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness…”! His leading, from the Hebrew “nachah” means He leads by going before and making a way (path), then brings us to and guides us in the way He has made. That is wonderful, but here’s the breathtaking part—the word “paths” is plural and those “paths” are circular! The straight and narrow path (Mark 7:14) led us to salvation, but once saved the “paths” He leads us in are literally circles of protection. The Hebrew word for “paths” is “magal” and means “entrenchment; track; circumvallation.” Entrenchment is to “defend something by surrounding it with trenches” (Encarta Dictionary) and circumvallation is “protection of a town or camp by surrounding it with a rampart or a defensive wall” (Encarta Dictionary).  
   The “paths of righteousness” I envision are the law (entrenchment) and the cross (circumvallation). Jesus, the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17), leads us by His Holy Spirit in greater adherence to the law—digging a trench of protection around us. Jesus, the Son of Man “lifted up” (John 8:28) leads us by His Holy Spirit to “take up [our] cross daily” (Luke 9:23) more and more—erecting a wall of protection around us. 
   The Good Shepherd goes to the deepest depths and highest heights to surround and protect His sheep, all for His “name’s sake.” Therefore, we can safely follow wherever He may lead—even when it seems we’re going around in circles! 

Dear Lord, The truth that I am literally surrounded by You both comforts and empowers me. 
May I bravely follow where You lead for Your honor and glory, and ultimately for my protection. ~ Amen

January 5, 2014

Great Expectations

Do not boast about tomorrow, 
for you do not know what a day may bring. ~ Proverbs 27:1

   This Christmas was going to be different. I had it all planned. No last minute shopping. Christmas cards mailed early. The house decorated especially festive. Presents beautifully wrapped before Christmas Eve, and a holiday meal fit for a king—china and all.
   However, falling ill several weeks before Christmas I could barely stay vertical, let along write cards, shop or decorate. Thus began a series of events, from car problems to inclement weather, from closed tree farms to power outages, pummeling my plans into oblivion like waves upon a sandcastle. At first I whined and cried to God, frustrated and saddened my plans were ruined. Thankfully, God is a patient Father and instead of being angry He seemed to keep whispering Isaiah 55:9 in my ear, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways…” 
   Finally, I relented. God could do anything He wanted to with my plans and my holidays and what He did was strip them. Shopping was minimal; our tree the only decoration in the house; presents wrapped simply; our holiday meal a turkey picnic on the living room floor of my daughter’s tiny apartment. Then on Christmas night the call came. We drove home quickly and bursting through the front door we all shouted, “Lights!” It was not the presents or the meal that made Christmas for us this year—it was the light. It took awhile for me to realize it was the same that first Christmas over 2000 years ago when the Light came into a cold, dark world (John 3:19, John 8:12). How glorious!  

Dear Lord, Thank You for showing me in a new and fresh way the true meaning of Christmas. 
Teach me in the New Year to always surrender my plans to Yours with great expectation 
that in doing so You will reveal more of Yourself to me. ~ Amen

December 8, 2013

Psalm 23: Soul Restoration

He restores my soul; ~ Psalm 23:3a

   The Good Shepherd provides food, drink, and rest for His sheep both in the physical and spiritual realm. All that He does is good, but what He accomplishes in the spiritual realm is by far more amazing and powerful than anything we can now see in the physical. 
  The weight of these four words, “He restores my soul,” is immense, for they literally encapsulate our salvation. The Hebrew word for “restores” is shuwb which means, “to cause to return, bring back; of dying; give in payment.” The Hebrew word for “soul” is nephesh which means, “living being; the inner being of man; seat of appetites, emotions and passions; activity of mind, will, and character.”
   Putting this all together, “He restores” refers to the fact God paid for and made a way for us to return to Him through the death of His One and Only son, Jesus. His restoration of “…my soul” is complete and total. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God literally turns our hearts, minds and souls back to Him. Soul restoration is nothing less than salvation.
   Scripture tells us at creation when God breathed into man’s nostrils man became a “living being” (Genesis 2:7) who walked and talked with God in the garden (Genesis 3:8a). Sin broke man’s fellowship with God. However, when God restores our souls intimate communion is immediately possible once again—in the spiritual realm. And one day, in the new heaven and new earth, it will be so in the physical realm as we literally walk side by side and talk face to face with the restorer of our souls. Truly, that will be paradise.  

Dear Lord, Thank You for restoring my soul and therefore our communion. 
May I never cease to be amazed that You loved me enough to make a way for me, a poor sinner, 
to walk and talk with You, Almighty God. Oh restorer of my soul, You are my salvation. ~ Amen

December 1, 2013

Psalm 23: Still Waters

He leads me beside the still waters. ~ Psalm 23:2b

   A shepherd refreshes and quenches the thirst of the flock by leading them “beside the still waters.” This picture of provisional love is quietly beautiful as he leads them to still, flowing waters which promise restoration and pose no danger. Such water is necessary and life sustaining. It is quite literally living water.
   How appropriate that the LORD refers to Himself as the “spring of living water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Therefore, when we drink of Him we will never thirst (John 4:14) for we are promised He will flow from within every true believer (John 7:38). Let this crystal clear truth of Scripture satiate your soul: our God will lead us continuously and eternally to “springs of living water” (Revelation 7:17). 
   Leading the flock to refreshment is also the leading to rest. No wonder Jesus declared, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37) just as He declared, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The Good Shepherd knows our need for both refreshment and rest and He gently leads us to both, which are found in Him. This week if we find ourselves spiritually parched and tired, let us listen to the voice of the Shepherd calling us to come and drink our fill of His living water and rest secure and satisfied in His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27a). 

Dear Lord, Sometimes this life can leave me so parched and exhausted. 
Please lead me away from the dry promises of this world 
to Your still and living waters which both refresh me and rest me. ~ Amen

November 24, 2013

Psalm 23: Green Pastures

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;… ~ Psalm 23:2a

   We may think the promises of Psalm 23 are for everyone, but they are not. They are for believers only, and oh, what amazing promises they are! Just look over the Psalm and see that God makes us, leads us, restores us, comforts us, and anoints us.
​   First, He makes or causes us to lie down. Naturally fearful, sheep do not lie down easily. There is tension within the flock; rivalry, competition, and fear of unseen predators. It is only the presence of the shepherd that gives security and allows the sheep to relax and rest. They know he will keep watch and not allow anything to harm them. Likewise, it is the perfect love of the Good Shepherd that casts out our fear (1 John 4:18) and grants us peaceful sleep.
   Sheep lie down not only to rest, but also to chew their cud. Once full, they chew on what they have already eaten. The shepherd brings the sheep to “green pastures,” of which there are not many in Israel. There are patches of green grass, generally on hillsides, which have managed to spring up out of the rocky, desert terrain. This reality implies that God can and will provide what naturally seems impossible. Just as the feeding of the 5000, when Jesus had the people sit down on “green grass” (Mark 6:39) and with only five loaves and two fish He fed them all and they were satisfied (Mark 6:42). 
   May we allow God to make us lie down in green pastures this week, by feeding on His Word (Psalm 34:8) and resting in His unfailing love (Psalm 119:76).

Dear Lord, You alone enable me to rest and You alone can feed my hungry soul till I am satisfied. 
Help me daily to feast on Your Word and to “chew on” Your truths while I rest. ~ Amen

November 10, 2013

Psalm 23: My Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. ~ Psalm 23:1

   Lately the Lord has impressed upon me the need and importance of memorizing His Word. He showed me I did not know passages I thought I knew (i.e. Psalm 23). In reality, I knew only parts of this beloved Psalm and not in the correct order. I now know Psalm 23 by heart, and thereby have fallen more in love with it and with the Great Shepherd of whom it speaks.  
   The placement of Psalm 23 is poetically perfect, for it falls between Psalm 22 about the Suffering Savior and Psalm 24 about the King of Glory. You see, before we can call the Lord our Shepherd, He must first be our Savior, and in eternity He will be our King of Glory.
   Truly, the Savior-King is also the Good Shepherd (John 10:11 &14). The Hebrew word for shepherd, “ra`ah” implies tending to and ruling over the flock. Furthermore, according to this definition the shepherd is also a “special friend” to the flock. It is important to understand that it is the relationship the shepherd has with his sheep that causes them to “not want.” The Hebrew word for want, “chacer” means “be without, be lacking, have a need.” It is because the Good Shepherd supplies all our needs (Philippians 4:19) that we do not want, or lack, or need anything else.
   Seeing the Lord as Our Shepherd means we look to Him to not only provide for us but to satisfy us—completely. The powerful truth of Psalm 23:1 is that God is all we need—period. Everything and everybody else in our lives is pure blessing.

Dear Lord, Thank You for being "my shepherd" and supplying all my needs. You are more than enough and yet You chose to bless me further
with family, friends, and possessions. I am so grateful that because of You I shall lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). ~ Amen

November 2, 2013

Chose Your Words 

Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, 
so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. ~ Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

   Words have the power to build up or tear down, to encourage or wound, to bring life or death. Research from the University of Pennsylvania found the average man speaks 6073 words daily while the average woman speaks 8805. That is an average of two words per second which equals a whole lot of talking. The question is, “Are the words we speak foul and abusive or good and helpful?”
   We have all been hurt by words but if we are honest, we have all hurt someone with our words as well. Often we do it unintentionally, but sometimes we do it on purpose. Many a soul has been scarred, a heart wounded, or a spirit crushed under the guise of “sarcasm” or “teasing.” Our choice of words determines whether we speak life or death into the lives of others.  
   Scripture tells us “…no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James3:8). Therefore, the only One who can tame our tongue, and thereby our words is the Word Himself. A God controlled tongue says less and uses more “good and helpful” words. We need God’s help to heed the admonition in James 1:19 to be “...slow to speak…” Our words are powerful and we should weigh them all. 
   If the power of our words does not give us pause then let this truth: “When words are many, sin is not absent…” (Proverbs 10:19). This week let us, with God’s help, chose our words carefully so that the words we speak build up, encourage and bring life to those who hear them.

Dear Lord, You are the Word. Help me speak less and make the words I do say be only those 
that are good and helpful. Please make the words of my mouth Your words. ~ Amen

October 20, 2013

No Room

I know that you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, 
because you have no room for my word. ~ John 8:37

   A sure fire way “to kill” our fellowship with God is to “have no room” for His Word. We live in a quick fix society and even Christians are looking for a short cut to a deeper walk with God. However, Solomon wisely discerned, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The way to have deeply intimate and divinely powerful fellowship with God is to daily make room for His Word in our lives. Read it (Joshua 8:35). Talk about it (Deuteronomy 6:7). Think about it (Joshua 1:8). Obey it (1 John 2:5). Hide it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). Bind it to our hands (Deuteronomy 11:18). Write it on the doorframes of our homes (Deuteronomy 6:9).
   It is impossible to have meaningful fellowship with someone we never talk or listen to. Communion is a two way street, one lane for talking, the other for listening. God has chosen to speak in various ways throughout history: a burning bush, a donkey, angels, visions, the Law and the Prophets. Then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). We have seen His glory and now hold His Word—the Bible—in our hands. There is no short cut to a deep relationship with God—we must make room for His Word in our life. 
   The people of Bethlehem missed the glorious birth of the Messiah because there was “no room” in the inn (Luke 2:7). Oh, let us not miss the glory of God in our lives because we have “no room” for His Word.

Dear Lord, Help me to always make room for Your precious Word. 
Give me a hunger for it so that I come back to it again and again for Your Word is life. ~ Amen

October 6, 2013

​When God is Silent

Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." ~ John 5:17

   God created man. Man sinned. But God, in His grace, promised a Savior. The Old Testament is the story of God’s relentless pursuit of man and man’s vacillation between obedience and rebellion. Then there was silence--four hundred years of silence between the Old and New Testaments! We might ask, “What in the world was God doing for those four hundred years?” The answer: He was working, preparing the way for the promised Savior.
   The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) was written enabling Gentiles, as well as Jews to know the promise of the Savior. The desecrated temple was rebuilt and then beautified by King Herod with white marble, gold, and jewels which allowed Christ to minister there in splendor. The Pharisees and Sadducees originated, putting in place oppositional authority to Jesus and His teaching. Crucifixion was perfected under the one-world government of the Roman Empire as the cruelest of punishments providing the means for God’s ultimate Sacrifice—His Son. This was necessary for “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrew 9:22 ESV).
   When we experience the silence of God, we must know this: His silence does not mean lack of love, involvement, or power. We must trust that, though silent, He is yet fervently working on our behalf. He knows what we need more than we do and He loves us more than we know.  
   God shattered His four hundred year silence with the angelic announcement that His covenant with man was now fulfilled for the Savior was born. God is always working and He always keeps His promises.  

Dear Lord, Help me to trust You, even in silence, knowing You are always working 
on my behalf and You always keep Your Word. ~ Amen

September 29, 2o13

Where Are You?

But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" ~ Genesis 3:9

   God has given man everything; life and blessing (Genesis 2:7, 1:28), a place to live, work to do, and food to eat (Genesis 2:15, 1:29), and best of all sweet relationship with Himself. God talked, walked, and worked with man (Genesis 1:28, 3:8a, 2:19).  
   Then man sinned and everything changed. When Adam and Eve heard God walking in the garden, instead of running to Him they hid from Him. Yet even in their sin, God called to them, “Where are you?” God did not ask the question because He did not know where they were—He asked the question because He knew exactly where they were. The question was for Adam and Eve. God wanted them to see and acknowledge where they were—hiding from their God, in an effort to cover their sin.
   God is omniscient so He has no need to ask questions and yet it is His way. Read the gospels and see that Jesus was always asking questions. We cannot hide from God and so instead we often hide from ourselves. God’s questions shine His light of Truth on us. “Where are you?” is still relevant to us today because the question really is, “Where are you in relationship to the LORD?” Are you hiding, striving unsuccessfully to cover your sin and shame? Or are you talking, walking and working with the Lord daily?
   It is a good practice to ask ourselves this poignant question often. Doing so will help keep us out of the bushes and in sweet relationship with God, who has given us everything.  

Dear Lord, Thank you for calling to me, even in my sin.  
Please help my answer to your question, “Where are you?” always be, 
“Here I am Lord, help me to be as close to You as possible.” ~ Amen

September 22, 2013

The Great Adventure

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord…." ~ Jeremiah 29:11a

   We all long for adventure in our lives but God desires that our lives be an adventure. Adventure implies excitement, exploration, charting a new course, journeying to unfamiliar places.  
   Think back to when you first came to know the Lord. Remember the excitement you felt? Remember your thirst for the Word, and exploring the pages of Scripture for new discoveries of your Savior? Remember how knowing Jesus set you on a new course? Remember walking with God through unfamiliar places?
   The Christian life is the great adventure. Gideon would have been content to hide from his enemy but God had other plans: Gideon would lead Israel to victory. Moses would have settled for life as a fugitive but God had other plans: Moses would lead Israel to freedom. Peter would have dutifully spent his life catching fish but God had other plans: Peter would fish for men. Paul would have continued in his misguided mission against the church but God had other plans: Paul would be the first missionary.  
   Do not be content with defeat when you are more than a conquer (Romans 8:27). Do not settle for captivity when you are free indeed (John 8:36). Do not be driven by duty but lead by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). God knows the plans He has for you and you can know them too. Ask Him what they are and then start living the life you were born to live. It will be the greatest adventure of all.

Dear Lord, Living out Your plans for my life makes my life an adventure.  
Please reveal your plans to me and help me to follow them. ~ Amen

September 15, 2013

​Down the Mountain 

Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets
 of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on 
both sides, front and back. ~ Exodus 32:15

   Moses has just had a mountaintop experience with God, his hands, head and heart literally full of all God has given and shared with him. Yet what awaits Moses at the foot of the mountain angers him to the point that he throws out of his hands the tablets of the Lord, breaking them into pieces (Exodus 32:19),
  Likewise the disciples descended the mount of transfiguration to face an angry crowd and teachers of the law. (Mark 9:14) Coming down the mountain is never easy. Let’s face it we all want to stay on the mountaintop like Peter. (Mark 9:5) Life is good there. Life is glorious there. However, life is lived out at the foot of the mountain, and in the valley not at the summit.  
   The mountaintop vision of God is ultimately to help us to see God better in the day in and day out of life. Make no mistake about it the enemy will be waiting for us when we come down the mountain. How will we respond? Will we throw away all God has given us or hold tightly to His gift? Will we forget the glory of the Lord or look to our glorious Lord for help? The choice is ours.
   If God can take us to the mountaintop He can carry us through the valley.

Dear Lord, Thank you for giving us the opportunity to live out in the valley
 what You teach us on the mountain. ~ Amen

September 8, 2013

Brought to Tears 

For, as I have often told you before and now say again 
even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 
~ Philippians 3:18

   Paul is in prison as he writes these words to the Philippians, but it is not his chains that bring him to tears, but rather the chains of sin holding lost souls as prisoners. Their sentence is destruction if they do not confess their guilt and accept that Christ paid their bail at the cross. Paul, who is willing to die for Christ, cries for those who will die without Him.
   Paul’s tears are literally for the same people who have persecuted and imprisoned him. Make no mistake about it; the enemies of the cross of Christ are Paul’s enemies as well. Yet Paul cries for his enemies and their fate apart from Christ. This is reminiscent of Christ as He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41)—crying for the very ones who would soon crucify Him.  
   When was the last time we were brought to tears over the lost? The very thought of anyone living and dying separated from God, especially someone we know and love, should break our hearts just as it did the great apostle’s and our Savior’s. Surely, if it does not bring us to tears it should, at least, bring us to our knees.  

Dear Lord, give me a heart for the unsaved that I may truly desire, as You do, 
that not one should be lost—no not one. ~ Amen

September 1, 2013

A Beautiful Attitude

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 2: 5

   We have all encountered a person with a bad attitude. In fact, if we are honest, sometimes we are that person! There are few things as unattractive as a bad attitude and few things as beautiful as a good one.
    Paul tells us our attitude should be the same as our Savior's. If we peruse the gospels we see Christ's attitude is the perfect display of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
   Scripture also tells us there was nothing physically attractive about Christ that we should be drawn to Him (Isaiah 53:2), yet people were attracted to and followed Him, for He was beautiful in spirit.
    So this week if we want to be beautiful we don't need to check the mirror, we need to check our attitude. Is it the same as our beautiful Savior's?

Dear Lord, Each day this week help me to have an attitude like Yours. 
I want to be beautiful in spirit as You were, and are and evermore shall be. ~ Amen

August 25, 2013

It is Finished 

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 
~ John 19:30

   “It is finished,” are the last words spoken by our Savior before He died for us and it seems those are words we can seldom say. Even now some of us are thinking of all the things we have yet to do before our day draws to a close. And invariably our “to do” list is never finished.
    The reason Christ could utter those words was not because He had checked off everything on His “to do” list and there was nothing left to be done, but because He truly had finished everything God the Father had on His “to do” list for Christ to accomplish.  
   Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God created us in Christ to do good works-works which He prepared in advance for us to do. So in reality the measure of a life well lived is not whether we have finished all the work there is for us to do but rather if we have finished the work God has prepared for us to do.
   We must ask ourselves, “What good work is God calling me to do today? Have I done it? Will I do it?” If we have we can lay our heads upon our pillows each night and say, “It is finished”-even if there are still things left undone on our “to do” list.

Dear Lord, Help me this week to keep my eye on Your “to do” list 
not on my own and at the end of each day may I echo the words of my Savior, 
“It is finished” knowing I have done the good each day that 
You have prepared in advance for me to do. ~ Amen

August 18, 2013

Reason to Kneel 

For this reason I kneel before the Father ~ Ephesians 3:14

   Paul was imprisoned when he penned Ephesians 3:14 but his reason for kneeling before the Father was not to request his own release, freedom from suffering, or even to seek God’s vengeance on his persecutors. Paul was brought to his knees because he did not want the Ephesians to be discouraged over his plight (v. 13). Instead he wanted them to be strengthened with power, rooted and grounded in love, and filled with the fullness of God (v. 16-19). He knelt before the Father on their behalf.
   I must confess often my reasons for kneeling before the Father are far less honorable. I have fallen to my knees broken by my own sin. I have sunk to my knees under the crushing weight of a burden bared or a decision demanding to be made. I have been brought to my knees overwhelmed with sorrow over a prodigal child or the death of a parent. Honestly, the reason I kneel before the Father most often involves me—my needs, my wants, my pain. It is not that such things are not worthy reasons to kneel but why are they usually the only reasons I do?
   Isn't His glory reason to kneel? Isn't an unsaved relative reason to kneel? Isn't the condition of our nation reason to kneel? Isn't the blessing of a friend reason to kneel? And Paul would add, “Isn't the spiritual growth and well being of a fellow Christian reason to kneel?”
   Truly God hears His children’s prayers no matter our physical posture. Could it be that our posture is more telling of the bent of our heart than the bend of God’s ear? Perhaps kneeling should be more the rule than the exception when we pray, for there are countless reasons to kneel before the Father. What is yours?

Dear Lord, One day every knee will bow. When that day comes may kneeling before You 
be a completely familiar and comfortable place for me to be. ~ Amen

August 11, 2013

A Child No More

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, 
I put the ways of childhood behind me. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11

   When it comes to love Paul beseeches us to be adults. Part of the love chapter of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:11 pinpoints three areas in which we are to grow up: the way we talk, think, and reason.
   Believers are to be mature in speech. We are to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and not let “…any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…” (v. 29). Believers are to be adults in our thinking (1 Corinthians 4:20). We are to think about that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). This is possible only when “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Believers are to be grown up enough “to give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15). The reason is Jesus (Colossians 1:27, Titus 2:13, 1 Peter 1:3) who, in love, died for us (Romans 5:8).
   My youngest daughter Jaclyn recently celebrated her twentieth birthday! No longer a teenager, officially an adult, it was bittersweet. There is a part of her (and many of us) that wishes childhood never had to end.
   This week she flies off to the Dominican Republic to visit her fiancé and his family. They met three years ago on a mission’s trip. Adulthood is not always easy but it has its own set of wonders. There is wonder in being able to make choices and it is awesome when we make the right ones—whether in words, thoughts, reason, or love.

Dear Lord, It is time for me to grow up. Help me choose my words with love, direct my thoughts with authority, 
and remember You are the reason for and the only hope that I have. ~ Amen

August 4, 2013

Our Engraved God

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands... ~ Isaiah 49:16a

   To engrave means to “etch, cut in, or carve.” It is a permanent marking in remembrance of something or someone. To have something engraved on the palms of your hands is to have it ever before you, always in your sight, a constant and everlasting remembrance. We must understand that not only does God have “the whole world in His hands,” He actually has His people “engraved” on them.
    It is agreed by most scholars that in Isaiah 49:16 God is referencing the ancient custom among the Jews of actually having their hands, arms, or foreheads tattooed with paintings of Jerusalem or the Temple. An impression was made on a block of wood and printed on the palm, arm or forehead with powder or charcoal. Then two needles were tied close together and dipped many times in certain inks. Small punctures were made quickly and accurately along the lines being careful not to draw blood. When the figure was finished they would wash it in wine ( These tattoos were done as a token of zeal and were called “ensigns of Jerusalem.” 
  God is zealous for His people (Isaiah 26:11). He will not forget His children (Isaiah 49:15). How can He when we are engraved on the palms of His hands? Do not doubt it. Nails not needles were used for this engraving. Jesus said to Thomas, “…look at my hands” (John 20:27 NKJV). The wounds in Christ’s hands from His crucifixion hint back to this ancient custom and bare the message that the Lord’s remembrance of us is constant and everlasting. God is remembering us right now.  

Dear Lord, You remember me always and yet sometimes I forget about You.
Help me Lord to think of You as often and as much as You think of me. ~ Amen​

July 28, 2013

No Turning Back

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 
 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. ~ John 6:66-67

   Jesus had just completed a discourse on being “the bread of life” (John 6:48-65). However, many of those listening found it to be “a hard teaching” and therefore would not accept it (v. 60). In reality Jesus had preached the gospel of salvation and the people rejected it…even those who appeared to be his disciples. How heart wrenching this must have been for the Savior who does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
   Imagine the pain in Jesus’ voice as He asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter’s response must have sparked both joy and comfort in Jesus. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (v. 68-69). Yet even among the Twelve there was one who was “a devil” (v.70), who would not only turn back but would betray the Lord in the process. 
   Today some are followers in appearance only. To truly follow Jesus is to take up our cross (Mark 8:34) and walk the road to Calvary with Him. We must “share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17). The Christian life is not for the faint of heart, it can be hard and we may be tempted to turn back. The question is, “Will we?” and the answer for every true believer is the same, “Where would we go?”

Dear Lord, I do not understand all Your teachings or all Your ways, yet 
You are the One I turn to for You have the words of eternal life. Therefore,
 I will follow You—no turning back, no turning back. ~ Amen

July 21, 2013

Riding On the Clouds

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, 
extol him who rides on the clouds; 
rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. ~ Psalm 68:4

…He makes the clouds his chariot and 
rides on the wings of the wind. ~ Psalm 104:3b

   The plane roared down the runway, the nose lifted, tilting us heavenward, making us airborne. I watched the ground shrink beneath me till it was intermittently blocked out by the scattered clouds we soared above. Looking down on those billowing cotton balls in the sky was amazing. The flight though short was beautiful and the approach for landing spectacular. Starting our descent we went from soaring above the clouds to seemingly riding upon them. As the pilot turned the plane left there was the moon peeking over a cloud, so close it appeared I could reach out and touch it. Then the pilot turned right and as we completed the turn there was the setting sun in hues of flaming orange. The sight took my breath away. It was…majestic. 
   The plane touched down, wheels rumbling hard on asphalt, as I thought about the One “who rides on the clouds,” the One who “makes the clouds his chariot.” The flight reminded me how vast God is and how small I am. “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers” (Isaiah 40:22). Yet He the Creator loves us unfailingly, pursues us relentlessly, desiring relationship with His creation. He “who rides on the clouds” came once to save us and will come again “…on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30) to claim us. “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 Timothy 4:17). What a flight that will be!

Dear Lord You are so far above me and yet You love me. 
You ride the clouds and I long for the day You will ride them 
in power and great glory to bring all Your children home. ~ Amen

July 14, 2013

Glory Filled

 …the glory of the LORD filled the temple. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:1

   Old Testament Scripture describes the “glory of the LORD” as both a cloud and consuming fire (Exodus 24:15-17). Then in Jesus, the “glory of the LORD” took on the form of man for He was “...the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being…” (Hebrews 1:3). Now with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the “glory of the LORD” dwells within every true believer (1 Corinthians 6:19). Therefore, Spirit filled Christians are glory filled Christians. Amazing!
   How is it then that the voice of the church today is nearly silent on the subject of God’s glory? It is cause for concern, for if we are not talking about God’s glory; chances are we are not thinking about, or studying it either. I believe, if we really meditated on Scripture and truly understood God’s glory as our inheritance both now and in the future—Christians today would look a lot less like the world and a lot more like Jesus.
   The reason we shy away from God’s glory, perhaps, is because it is beyond our comprehension. When we try to encapsulate it within a human definition we discover it is virtually indefinable. However, the glory of God is basically the way He makes Himself recognizable. We, in ourselves, “…fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, Christ in us is our ONLY hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). God through Christ desires to make Himself and His glory recognizable to us and through us not just in eternity but here and now.

Dear Lord, Your glory is too glorious for me and yet it delighted You to fill me
with Your glorious Spirit. Please make Yourself recognizable in me today. ~ Amen 

July 7, 2013

Holy Ground

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, 
for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” ~ Exodus 3:5

   Moses saw the burning bush and went over to get a closer look in hopes of discovering why the bush was not consumed (Exodus 3:3). What he discovered was the one true God who called him by name, “Moses! Moses!” (Exodus 3:4). Moses replied, “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4) and so began their heart to heart conversation.
    We often envy Moses’ experience. What we fail to realize is that we have it better than Moses. It was the presence of Almighty God within the burning bush that made the ground holy. Therefore, Moses could only come so close to the bush from which God spoke, yet we can hold the very the Word of God with our own hands. Even more amazing is the truth that God who dwelt within the bush now dwells, through His Holy Spirit, within every true believer. Thereby, Jesus could honestly declare, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He is not only God with us, He is God within us.  
   Truly God calls all His children by name—not just Moses (John 10:3). And any place we have heart to heart communion with our heavenly Father is holy ground whether our home, our church, our car or our backyard. Do you have a special place where you meet with God? If so, make sure to spend some time there today. And when you do, remember you too are on holy ground. So in acknowledgement, you might want to take off your shoes.  

Dear Lord, Thank You for calling me by name and for the amazing gift of Your Spirit 
within me and Your Word to me. Truly anywhere You are is holy ground. ~ Amen

June 30, 2013

One Nation Under God

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God 
in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. ~ Deuteronomy 4:39

   This week we celebrate the birth of our nation, the United States of America. The labor was long “…can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” (Isaiah 66:8). The birth was painful as George Washington stated “. . . you might have tracked the army from White Marsh to Valley Forge by the blood of their feet.
   History has it that during the darkest days at Valley Forge, George Washington could be found kneeling in earnest prayer. The painting The Prayer at Valley Forge American artist Arnold Friberg (1913-2010) powerfully captures such a moment. Obviously the future first president of our great nation believed the last words of the Declaration of Independence “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
   We are a nation rooted in faith and God has blessed America. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “one nation under God”. Our national anthem declares, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust’”. Our currency is stamped with the testimony “In God We Trust” which by Act of Congress legally became our national motto on July 30, 1956! 
   A lot has changed in little over half a century. Sadly many Americans have forgotten God, the very foundation on which our nation was built. However, this fact will never change “the LORD is God…There is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39) and He is over all (Psalm 47:2). 

Dear Lord, Thank You that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Today I bow in prayer for my country and 
ask You to heal our land. Bring us back to You. ~ Amen

June 23, 2013

Cup of Blessing

Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them… ~ Genesis 31:55

   Last week my eldest daughter, Kaitlyn, turned twenty-two. Now a wife and mother she is still my little girl, which was so evident when at her birthday dinner she requested we continue our “Cup of Blessing” tradition. The tradition is that at each birthday we fill a special cup with a special drink and then the cup is passed to each person at the table who then speaks a word of blessing over the one having their birthday. Afterwards, we toast the birthday person and they drink the cup of blessing.
   The concept of blessing is biblical as there are 544 uses of various forms of the word “bless” found in Scripture. In the Old Testament to “bless” meant to fill with benefit or to praise by filling with honor and good words (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 223). Therefore, a blessing was spoken. God created Adam and Eve then “blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful…’” (Genesis 1:28). Isaac spoke a blessing over his sons Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27, 28). Jacob spoke blessing over his sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 48, 49). David spoke blessing over Solomon (I Kings 2).
   Unfortunately, today we often and sometimes only speak blessing over a person at their funeral. Is it not better to bless them while they are still with us so that they can hear and benefit from the blessing? In my family we purposely bless those we love on their birthday. This week I challenge you to think of someone who is a blessing to you, then purposely speak a blessing to them. In the end you will both be blessed.

Dear Lord, I bless Your name and thank You for all the blessings You have given to me. 
Please give me words of blessing for someone today. ~ Amen

June 9, 2013

Fog Faith

…a cloud hid him from their sight. ~ Acts 1:9

  It was a foggy day when my dear friend and I drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. We sat in the car eating our lunch and looked out at what we knew was a beautiful view for we had seen it before. However, on this particular day a cloud of fog hid the view from our sight. All we could see were trees a stone’s throw away and then the gray veil dropped.
  Sitting there it occurred to me that just because we could not see the view did not mean it was not there—as beautiful as ever. Likewise though we cannot always see God’s beauty in our lives, does not mean it is not there. This week marks eight years since my mother’s death. Her unexpected passing and the discovery of secrets she took to her grave clouded my view of God for quite some time. So thick and dark was the cloud that I feared it might never dissipate allowing me to once again see clearly. During those first years as I struggled to see God through the fog the truth that “…we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV) often came to mind.  
  However, walking by faith seemed impossible. It was not until I remembered the beautiful panoramic view of God throughout my life that my faith resurfaced. Then slowly the fog began to thin, as like David I remembered the days when I could see the Lord’s beauty in my life and all He had done for me (Psalm 143:5). And wonder of wonders there was God in all His beauty—just as He had always been. 

Dear Lord, Help me keep my faith through the fog trusting You are there 
in all Your beauty even when I cannot see You. ~ Amen

June 2, 2013

Star Point

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. ~ Matthew 2:10

  Recently I was blessed to spend time in Bar Harbor with my dear friend. We walked the familiar coastline of Salisbury Cove but because the tide was out we walked further than ever before. Rounding a huge bend of rocks we stopped in our tracks when we saw a star carved through a rock cliff. God, the master carver, had used waves as His chisel. Seeing the star we were overjoyed. Taking in the whole scene I was struck by how it all testified to the reality of God just as the star of Bethlehem had testified to the wise men the reality of the Messiah.
  First there was the sea which God shut behind doors by saying, “…This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11). Then there was the sky proclaiming “…the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). Atop the cliff was a tree standing in testimony that a tree planted by the water does not wither and its leaves are always green (Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8). The rock cliff and star spoke of God, “For…who is the Rock except our God?” (Psalm 18:31) and Jesus declared, “I…am...the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16). In that moment, for me, God was everywhere and in everything. 
  Later reflecting on the boat framed within the star I realized that I would do well to anchor the boat of my life in the center Jesus, the Star for He is the only place to find safe harbor. How poignant that God used Star Point, as it is called, to point me to Him. 

Dear Lord, You are the Creator of all and all creation points back to You. 
Help me today to see You in all I see and be overjoyed in the process. ~ Amen

May 26, 2013

Memorial Day

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 
~ John 8:36

   This week we remember those who have given their lives for our freedom. Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who died. Since then millions of others have fought and died that you and I might continue to live free.
   Surely retired Air Force Colonel Walter Hitchcock spoke the truth when he said; “Freedom is not free.” Freedom comes at a great price in both the physical and spiritual realm. Thomas Jefferson said, "The Tree of Liberty is watered with the blood of every generation." Likewise, spiritually speaking, it can be said the “Tree of Liberty” is watered with the blood of our Savior. 
   It is sad but true that in the physical realm our freedom will always be in the balance. There will always be dark forces that threaten our liberty and devise plans to attack and take it from us. Wars have been part of the landscape of history since time began and it will be so until time is no more. However, in the spiritual realm our freedom is secure for when Christ sets us free we are “free indeed” (John 8:36). The Greek translation of “indeed” in this verse literally means, “truly, in reality, in point of fact.” No more blood ever needs to be spilled to guarantee our spiritual freedom because the blood of Christ is enough. 
   This Memorial Day as we remember those who have died for our freedom let us not forget the One who died to make us free eternally. 

Dear Lord, Thank You for the secure eternal freedom Your shed blood and death afford me.
 May everyday be a Memorial Day to You and the sacrifice You made for me. ~ Amen 

May 12, 2013

A Mother’s Greatest Gift

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. 
For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD. ~1Samuel 1:27-28a

   Many women have prayed for a child and received the desire of their hearts—be it biological, adopted, or as a surrogate. All of us who are blessed with children in our lives need to realize they are gifts from God. 
     Motherhood is the best job in the world, but also the hardest for it is the quintessential example of on the job training. We all make our share of mistakes; I know I have. Oh that we would learn quickly what Hannah knew from the start. 
     Barren and deeply anguished Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10, 15). She made a vow that if God gave her a child she would give the child back to God (v. 11). Samuel was the answer to Hannah’s prayers (v. 20). Honoring her vow, after he was weaned (between 2 and 4 years old), she took him to the temple to live (v. 22). Every year thereafter, at the time of the annual sacrifice, she took Samuel a hand-made robe (1 Samuel 2:19). 
    Thankfully today giving our children back to God does not literally mean leaving them at church and only seeing them once a year. Still it is a purposeful act of the will that never stops. All of our children’s lives we must repeatedly give them over to the LORD just as Hannah did with Samuel, “for his whole life he will be given over to the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:28a). 
     Our children are gifts and our greatest gift to our children is to give them back to Gift Giver (James 1:17). 

Dear Lord, It is a great blessing to be a mother (or mother figure) to a child.
Help me to remember the best thing I can do for those You have entrusted to me
is to give them back to You. ~ Amen

May 5, 2013

Conviction vs Condemnation

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ~ Romans 8:1

   There is “no condemnation” for believers. None. Christians are convicted, not condemned and there is a vast difference between the two.
   Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit and condemnation comes from Satan. Conviction spurs us on while condemnation weighs us down. Conviction drives us to God but condemnation drives us away from God and into isolation. 
   This issue is brought to light when followers fall. Moses did, David did, Peter did and you and I are not exempt. The hope is that when we sin we experience conviction. Conviction in the Greek means "full assurance." Therefore, conviction brings “full assurance” of our sin and our need for repentance. It also brings “full assurance” that when we repent we are totally forgiven. Christ our intercessor prays for us as He did Peter—that after falling our faith would not fail. And when we turn back, we would strengthen others (Luke 22:32).
  When believers sin the accuser of the brethren tries to bury us in condemnation. Condemnation means “damnatory sentence; to judge worthy of punishment.” It is to our detriment to hear the enemy’s accusations over our Savior’s prayers. While it is true we deserve to be condemned the greater truth is that for those who are in Christ Jesus “there is now no condemnation.” 
   When we fall the devil wants to keep us down but God wants us to get up, stand strong, and serve others. Conviction will always bring us back to our feet after we fall on our knees in repentance before our Savior. 

Dear Lord, You are so gracious to convict me when I sin so that I will come running back to You, 
where I belong. Keep me far from the pit of condemnation with the truth that 
You have forgiven ALL my sins—past, present and future. ~ Amen

April 28, 2013

What Are You Wearing?

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, 
and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. ~ Romans 13:14

   The question “What am I going to wear?” is commonly posed in the physical realm but it is actually a very spiritual question. Spiritually we must answer it daily, moment by moment, and situation by situation. Christians have only two options regarding their spiritual clothing—the Lord Jesus Christ or the “old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). 
   We dress on purpose, not by accident. What we wear is a deliberate choice. Unfortunately, what we do not seem to realize, in the spiritual realm, is that to not purposely clothe ourselves with the Christ is to slip into the rags of the “old self” by default. Christians always have Christ within, but we must chose to wear Him without.
   Clothing ourselves with Christ is the equivalent of putting on “the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11) for Christ is each piece of the armor. The only way to win a battle with temptation or to fight the good fight of faith victoriously (1 Timothy 6:12) is to put on our armor. It enables us to have success in battle in the war already won (2 Thessalonians 2:8).  
   Likewise clothing ourselves with Christ is to wear His attitudes of: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love (Colossians 3:12). When our attitude is the same as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) we are a beautiful reflection of Him. 
  The only way for us to be both victorious in battle and radiantly beautiful is to clothe ourselves with Christ. So what are you wearing today?  

Dear Lord, Help me to purposely choose to clothe myself with You each day so that I can win the battles in my life 
and be a beautiful reflection of You to those around me. ~ Amen

April 21, 2013

Good Samaritans in Boston

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." ~ Luke 10:36-37

   It was a day celebrating freedom as some 27,000 runners and countless spectators gathered in Bean Town. There were cheers and joy as runners crossed the finish line. Then two bombs exploded and everything changed. Cheers turned to screams and joy to terror. The bombing at the 117th Boston Marathon brought to light, once again, the present evil in this world. However, to solely focus there is to allow fear to hold us captive and hope to flee away along with any sense of security.
   We must focus on what happened after the explosions. People no longer racing to the finish raced to help the wounded. People worked together to care for and comfort the injured. “He went to him and bandaged his wounds…” (Luke 10:34). In the days that followed, various law enforcement agencies worked together to track down and capture the culprits. Two young men wrought carnage on the innocent but when the smoke cleared countless good Samaritans stood tall. 
   Therein is the lesson. No matter how great an evil among us there is a greater good that will ultimately triumph over it. And when disaster strikes we are no longer strangers but neighbors—willing to help one another—loving “our neighbor” as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  
   Also, at times like these we tend to look to God who “is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1) for only in Him are we free from fear. “Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way…” (Psalm 46:1). Whatever comes, in the end, good and God will triumph. 

Dear Lord, Thank You that Your goodness shines like a light in the darkness giving me hope that all is not lost and helping me remember 
You are triumphant. Therefore, I will not fear. ~ Amen

April 7, 2013

Spring Eternal

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. 
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; ~ Isaiah 35:1-2a

   Spring is exhilarating; awakening us from hibernation. Spring after winter is warmth after cold, light after dark, life after death. Driving with windows down and radio up is spring to me. The thought of that soon coming day makes me smile.
   This month as my car windows open buds will blossom; fitting for the name April comes from the Latin verb aperire, meaning “to open”. All blossoms are stunning but particularly striking is a blossom in the desert or one that breaks through the snow. The crocus has been known to do both. 
  Isaiah 35 speaks of the millennial reign of Christ which will burst into bloom like a rose in the desert. His kingdom blossoming will be in harmony with nature as it will follow a cold, dark season of judgment. The beauty of spring is multiplied because it is preceded by winter. The glory of the resurrection is magnified by the preceding crucifixion. And the splendor of the millennial reign will be intensified due to the preceding judgment. The reality is experienced sorrow sweetens our joy. 
   Personally, no matter what season we find ourselves in today we can smile knowing an eternal spring is coming. Let every bud and blossom remind us of this truth. Soon the gates of the Holy City will spring open and we will enter Zion with singing and everlasting joy will crown our heads. We will be overtaken with gladness as sorrow and signing will be no more (Isaiah 35:10b)! Welcome spring eternal!

Dear Lord, I long for spring eternal but until then help me to burst into bloom
 like the crocus in the wilderness-a symbol of Your life in a dry and thirsty land. ~ Amen

March 31, 2013

Just as He Said

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
 ~ Matthew 28:6

   Figuratively speaking, over the last few weeks, we have walked the road to the cross with Jesus. As we journeyed together we noticed some major stepping stones along the way: 

Change Rejection Opposition Suffering Sacrifice

   These stepping stones are an acronym for the CROSS. Truly Jesus was born to die, “…the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Oh but He died only to rise again, “just as he said” (Matthew 28:6). Jesus’ tomb is empty because He is God yes, but also because He is the God of Truth who does everything He says He will do. Jesus rose “just as he said” for it was part of the Father’s ultimate plan of salvation for all people (2 Peter 3:9).
   Gloriously our God lives and gloriously our God can be taken at His Word. What God says WILL be done—period. This is great news for we live in a world riddled with falsehood and broken promises. It is the human condition to say many things but rarely follow through. Most of us, if honest, would have to admit, though we have good intentions, we do not always do what we say we will. That is why it is not safe to trust in anyone, not even ourselves. The only one worthy of our trust is God for He is God of His Word.
   Some Biblical scholars say there are 300 Messianic prophecies in the Bible and Jesus fulfilled them all. It has also been suggested that of 2500 total prophecies found in Scripture, 2000 have already been fulfilled. I am not a Biblical scholar but there are a few things I do know. God promised us Jesus as Savior over the serpent from the beginning, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15). Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit as Comforter over our fears, when He ascended “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). And the Holy Spirit has been revealing Christ to the church ever since (Revelation 2 and 3). Oh may we hear what the Spirit has to say to the church of our day, for one day, the last promise the risen Savior made will be fulfilled, “Yes, I am coming soon." (Revelation 22:20).  
Jesus rose, “just as He said” He would. And Jesus will come again, “just as He said” He would. Victorious over death, Jesus rose as Savior over sin. Victorious over the enemy of our souls, Jesus will come again as King of kings and Lord of lords. In a world where we can barely believe anything anyone says it is glorious to serve the one true God who’s every Word we can trust. Hallelujah, He has risen! He has risen indeed! Just as He said! 

Dear Lord, I praise Your name for You are God of Your Word. I can believe everything You say for it is true and You always keep Your promises. My risen Savior and returning King You are glorious. ~ Amen

March 24, 2013

The Road to the Cross: Suffering and Sacrifice

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities…
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ~ Isaiah 53:4-6

   I still remember clearly the total silence as hundreds of us left the theater after watching “The Passion of Christ” for the first time. My family and I did not utter a word the whole drive home. Somehow to speak after witnessing the magnitude of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice was to defile it. The grand cinematographic display forever wiped from my mind the beautiful and comfortable paintings of the crucifixion. Christ’s death upon the cross was far from pretty; it was cruel and vicious, horrific and ugly. 
   Before writing this devotional I studied stills from the movie and was once again brought to tears. Yet as powerful as those images are even they do not fully display Christ’s suffering. Scripture tells us, “his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14). Take a moment to grasp that. Then marvel that Christ endured all that for you and for me. Oh may we never forget the depth of our Savior’s suffering on our behalf. 
   Perfect, sinless Jesus was beaten, scourged, spat upon, mocked, pieced, speared, and killed in our place yet He “did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He suffered in silence until the Father turned away as the full weight of our iniquity was laid upon Him. Then “Jesus cried out in a loud voice…‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). The spiritual pain of separation from God the Father was worse than all the physical pain combined breaking God the Son’s silence. When Jesus died it was three o’clock in the afternoon, the exact time of the evening sacrifice. And so “…he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressor” (Isaiah 53:12). 
   The reality of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice is unsettling. Therefore, we tend to gloss over it at best and ignore it at worst. To do so is to miss the point entirely. One of the most stunning images from “The Passion of the Christ” is when Jesus is standing before Pilate and the angry mob literally covered in blood. Instinctively we turn away and yet it is His blood poured out for us that covers all our sin. Our sin, though as scarlet becomes white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) when cleansed by the blood of our Savior for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). 
   Another powerful image from the film is when Mary runs to Christ’s spilled blood, kneels in it, and tries to wipe it up. We must resist the urge to turn away and instead, like Mary, love and embrace the blood of our Savior. For NOTHING but His blood can wash away our sin. 
   The painful road to the cross came to an excruciating end atop Golgotha’s hill as Christ suffered, bled, and died in our place. The sky grew dark, the earth shook, the curtain ripped, and Mary wept. Oh, but Easter is coming and there is wonder working power in the blood.

Dear Lord, Your suffering was immense and Your sacrifice completely satisfied my sin debt. Help me always remember and forever 
be grateful that what You did on the cross means I never have to suffer God’s wrath or experience the pain of separation from Him. ~ Amen

March 17, 2013

The Road to the Cross: Opposition

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, 
and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming 
to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. ~ Mark 14:1

   We have seen that the road to the cross was wrought with stepping stones of change and rejection. Along the painful path to Calvary the sharp stepping stone of opposition can be found as well, from beginning to end.  
  There was crazed opposition from the start as baby Jesus’ very life was in danger. The Messiah was born and once King Herod heard of it he searched for the child to kill him (Matthew 2:13). So desperate was Herod to destroy the rightful King that he ordered the execution of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who where two years old and under (Matthew 2:16). Jesus escaped the mass execution for an angel of LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to take his family to Egypt (Matthew 2:16). They would not return to the land of Israel until King Herod was dead (Matthew 2:19-20).
  The kingdom of darkness has always and will always oppose the kingdom of light; until King Jesus eternally destroys it with the breath of His mouth and the splendor of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Surely the news that brought joy to the world and peace to men must have caused all hell’s demons to shriek in sorrow and the devil himself to roar venomous flames of fear. Long before the chief priests and teachers of the law schemed to kill Jesus (Mark 14:1) the prince of the air and the spiritual forces of evil had already schemed, devised, and plotted their plan of opposition and murder.
  The opposition Jesus faced took many forms. Jesus was interrogated, questioned and tested by the religious leaders of the day (Matthew 19:3; Mark 8:11). He was slandered and accused of blasphemy (Luke 5:21). He was called “a glutton and a drunkard” (Luke 7:34). His powers were attributed to the father of lies (Luke 11:15) instead of God His father. Judea became a very dangerous place for Jesus because the Jewish leaders there were trying to kill him (John 7:1). And on more than one occasion Christ “hid himself” (John 8:59) and escaped the grasp (John 10:39) of those who wanted to stone Him. 
  Jesus’ most vehement opposition came from the crowd and religious leaders but His most painful opposition came from inside His inner circle of friends. Betrayed with a kiss that would send Him to the cross Jesus’ called Judas “friend” (Matthew 26:50). However, when Peter rebuked Christ about His death saying, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22) Jesus called Peter, “Satan” and “a stumbling block” (Matthew 16:23). 
  You see Jesus was born to die for us. God used all the enemies’ opposition to fulfill Christ’s ultimate purpose, for His life was not taken from Him but He laid it down of His own accord (John 10:17-18). So when His time was near Jesus purposely went back into Judea knowing the cross was close. Christ is proof no amount of opposition can thwart the plans and purposes of God.

Dear Lord, You faced opposition from slander to testing, from stumbling blocks to threats of stoning, 
and willingly laid down Your life for me at the appointed time. Help me trust that no matter how intense the opposition 
ultimately Your will is always accomplished. ~ Amen

March 10, 2013

The Road to the Cross: Rejection

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. ~ Isaiah 53:3

   The road to the cross began with change as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The Creator entered into creation only to be rejected by it. “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10-11).
   Jesus knew the searing pain of rejection from the beginning. He was born among animals and laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn (Luke 2:7). Jesus was rejected as a child. He grew into a man and while His mother Mary followed Him in His ministry from the start the rest of His family did not. “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21). Jesus was rejected by His family. 
   Simon, the Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner but then rejected Him publicly by not giving Him water for His feet, oil for His head or a kiss of greeting (Luke 7:44-46). Each was a customary courtesy for a host to extend to their guests. Simon did not extend these courtesies to Jesus because his invitation was not given out of love but with ulterior motives. Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders of His day. While not surprising it was no less painful. Jesus walked the road to the cross and died for Simon, the Pharisee too.
   The earthly ministry of our Savior was short. It took a mere three years for Jesus to rise to the pinnacle of popularity only to be thrown down onto the rough, jagged rocks of public opinion. After a particularly hard teaching the multitudes began to thin. “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66). Jesus was rejected by His followers. The pain of this is immediately evident by Jesus’ question to the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67). They pledged their loyalty to Jesus but He knew that even among the Twelve there was a betrayer (John 6:71). 
   Then when the hour had come Judas, one of the Twelve, came with a large crowd armed with swords and clubs (Matthew 26:47). They seized Jesus and arrested Him (Matthew 26:50) and “all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). Ultimately, Jesus was rejected by all His disciples. Mark 14:50 makes that clear, “Then everyone deserted him and fled.” Jesus was indeed “rejected by mankind” (Isaiah 53:3) as He heard beautiful shouts of praise, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9) turn to bitter cries of death, “Crucify him!” (Mark 27:23).  
   The stepping stones of rejection can be found all along the road to the cross; from beginning to end. Still Jesus walked the painful road and died to bring salvation to the very creation that rejected Him. Jesus endured the rejection of man that we might experience the acceptance of God (Acts 15:8). Accepted by God we too can walk on even in the face of rejection. 

Dear Lord, I am accepted by You because You were rejected for me. Praise Your Holy name. Please give me strength 
to walk on with You even when I am rejected by man. ~ Amen​

March 3, 2013

The Road to the Cross: Change

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, 
he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. ~ Philippians 2: 6-7 

   Easter will be here soon and with it the celebration of our Savior’s glorious resurrection. Nature itself reflects this glory as the budding light of spring bursts forth from the sleeping dark of winter. It is indeed a paradox that in part what makes spring so wonderful is that it is preceded by winter. I wonder if we would appreciate the green of spring as much if it followed the variegated colors of summer. It is doubtful.
   Likewise, part of what makes our Savior’s resurrection so glorious is that it is preceded by the cross. The two are indelibly linked for you cannot have one without the other. Therefore, as we look forward to celebrating Christ’s resurrection it is fitting that we spend some time contemplating His crucifixion. So beginning with this devotion we will, in a manner of speaking, walk the road to the cross with Jesus pausing on some of the stepping stones along the way.  
   It is far beyond our ability to comprehend the reality that the road to the cross was charted before the world began (Revelations 13:8), and in fact the work of the cross was already finished before creation (Hebrews 4:3). This is true because God operates outside of time and space—something we cannot do. Therefore, for our purposes, the road to the cross begins when Christ stepped into time. 
   God became man. The Word made flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14). Jesus traded the majesty of a throne for a meager manger. He chose to put the limited flesh of man on over the limitless, perfect nature of God. Jesus willingly left heavenly streets of gold for the dirt roads of earth. He went from being surrounded by angels who adore Him to being surrounded by apostles who haphazardly and half-heartedly followed Him. The Judge submitted Himself to judgment. The Master became the servant. The Shepherd became the Lamb that was slain (Revelations 13:8), ultimately making the Sovereign the Savior.  
   Christ made all these changes knowing to do so was to die. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). The changes Christ made are what made the great exchange possible. The great exchange is that because Christ took on our nature we can now take on His (2 Corinthians 5:17)! The great exchange is that because of Christ’s death we can now truly live for He lives in us (Galatians 2:20). The changes He made were from the lofty to the lowly so that ours could be the opposite; from lowly to lofty, from sinner to saint. 
   It is possible for us to deny ourselves and carry our cross daily (Luke 9:23) because Christ walked the road to the cross first. One of the stepping stones along the way was change. In fact, it was there at the beginning. God became a child so that we might be the children of God (Galatians 3:26; 1John 3:2).

Dear Lord, You denied Yourself for me, leaving the splendor of heaven for the spoils of earth. 
Thank You for making Your home here temporarily so I could have a home in heaven eternally. ~ Amen

February 24, 2013

Third Day Glory

Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him,
clasped his feet and worshiped him. ~ Matthew 28:9

   The phrase “on the third day” automatically turns many hearts toward Easter and the resurrection of our Savior. Christ stated seven times in the gospels that He would be killed and then raised to life “on the third day.” Miraculously and gloriously it happened just as He said it would. Today, many of us know Jesus lives because He lives in us and we have a relationship with Him. It is both a beautiful and joyful thing to serve the living God.
   We know Jesus is alive but the women who came to the tomb early on the morning of the third day knew nothing of the sort. They went to the tomb with eyes swollen from weeping, shoulders drooping in doubt, hearts heavy with grief and their feelings raw. We cannot even fathom the tsunami of emotion when there was a violent earthquake as an angel of the LORD came from heaven, rolled away the stone, and sat upon it (Matthew 28:2). Shining with the glory of heaven his appearance like lightning and his clothes as white as snow, the guards trembled and became as dead men (Matthew 28:4).
   However, the angel comforted the women saying, “…Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:5-6). The women were afraid but filled with joy as they saw the empty tomb. They ran to tell the disciples when suddenly Jesus met them! “They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9).
   This was quite different from the third day glory described in Exodus 19. It had been three months since the Israelites had left Egypt when they reached Mount Sinai. God told Moses to have the people prepare themselves and “…be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Exodus 19:11). However God gave strict stipulations, “Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, 'Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 19:12).
   God is untouchable in the third day glory of the Old Testament; in fact the people cannot even touch the foot of the mountain where God is—lest they be put to death. Oh, but in the third day glory of the New Testament the glorified Lord is now within our reach. He is no longer untouchable, “They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9). In the New Testament exhibition of third day glory Christ rose victorious over, sin, death, and the grave, writing in stone, if you will, our salvation, “For it is by grace you have been saved...” (Ephesians 2:8).   
   The Old Testament law giving God causes us to tremble. The New Testament grace giving Lord causes us to worship. The glory of grace is that it reverses the guilty verdict rendered by the law and “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans.8:1). 
  This Easter season let us mediate on the third day glory of Christ’s resurrection and like the women at the tomb, may we come to the Lord, clasp His feet, and worship Him.

Dear Lord, it is Your death, burial and resurrection that secures my salvation and makes relationship possible. 
Therefore, let my trembling give way to worship. ~ Amen

February 17, 2013

Love One Another

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, 
so you must love one another. ~ John 13:34

   It is so important for us to grasp the love God has for us, as we looked at in last week’s devotional, because doing so greatly impacts our ability to love one another. Scripture tells us what great love looks like, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). If laying down your life for a friend is great love then laying down your life for your enemy is the greatest love of all—it is God’s love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 
   God’s love bestowed on us empowers us to love one another—even our enemies. Loving one another is not an option for those who are in Christ; it is a command (John 13:34). It seems outrageous that God would require us to love others as He has loved us. It seems impossible…and it is…apart from Christ. When we grasp the width, length, height and depth of Christ’s love for us we are “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19) and only then can we love like Him.  
   Scripture also tells us our ability to love is directly linked to our forgiveness. Jesus said so Himself when He spoke of the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, kissed them and poured out an alabaster jar of perfume upon them. Jesus explained to Simon, the Pharisee, who looked upon the woman with hate and had even treated Christ with disrespect, that those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:47). 
   It is our human tendency to rate sin. We might pacify ourselves with thoughts like, “Well yes I guess I do sin--I mean I did tell a little white lie yesterday, but at least I’m not a murderer.” However, on God’s playing field all sin is even ground because ultimately all sin is against God. So whether a liar or murderer, full of pride or full of lust, prone to envy or to gossip, we are all sinners for we have all broken God’s law. We are all guilty. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).
   Make no mistake about it—we, as Christians, have all been forgiven much! God help us if we forget, or ignore such a great salvation which was wrought in the greatest display of love the world has ever known as our Savior died for us, His enemies, upon the cross. Are you having trouble loving someone in your life right now? Then ask God to help you grasp His love for you personally and remember His forgiveness toward you. 
   The lyrics of an old Gaither song, “I Am Loved,” comes to mind: I am loved, I am loved, I can risk loving you, for the one who knows me best loves me most. I am loved, you are loved, won't you please take my hand? We are free to love each other, we are loved. Forgiven! I repeat... I'm forgiven! Clean before my Lord I freely stand. Forgiven, I can dare forgive my brother; Forgiven, I reach out to take your hand.  
   The truth is because He first loved us we can obey Christ’s command to love one another (1 John 4:17).

Dear Lord, Thank You that Your great love and forgiveness empowers me to love others. 
When I struggle in this area please help me remember You loved me first. ~ Amen

February 10, 2013

God Loves You

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
~ Ephesians 3:17-19

   Love is in the air and hearts are everywhere because this is the week of Valentine's Day! Yet there are those among us who would label themselves unlovable, for they feel there is no one who truly loves them. On Valentine’s Day they expect no card; no candy; no flowers. Perhaps they have forgotten or do not realize the greatest love letter ever written might well be sitting on their bookshelf or night stand collecting dust. Maybe they have lost sight of or have yet to see the perfect Valentine Christ has bought and painted crimson with His blood. Dying to win their heart He offers His love with the sweet whisper, “Be mine.”  
    Every one of us longs for unfailing love (Psalm 19:22) and God willingly and impartially offers it to us (Psalm 36:7). A lack of love can depress us, deform us, and even destroy us. This need not ever be, for every person on earth is completely, perfectly, and lavishly loved by God. I wonder as you read this if you know beyond any doubt that the God of the universe is crazy about you? He is and you need to know it.
   The apostle John knew God’s love for him. His gospel and three epistles are like a symphony of love with the word love or its derivative used 102 times. The symphony begins with the dramatic first note of John 3:16. The echo of that love note has resounded throughout every generation from the time it was first written until the present day. No doubt it is a note that will be heard through all eternity.
   John could write easily of love for John felt and experienced the love of the Lord in such a profound way he repeatedly called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20). John literally identified himself by God’s love for him and unapologetically basked in the lavish, extravagant, outrageous, unfailing love of his Savior. The love of God made John comfortable enough to recline against Christ at the Last Supper and strong enough to stand at the foot of the cross.
   One of the ways John gained such intimate knowledge of the Savior’s love was by literally following Him so closely. John’s writings include intimate and private conversations Christ had with Nicodemus, Peter, and even the Father. John’s proximity to the Master was so close it enabled him to overhear these talks from which some of Christ’s most recognizable and powerful words are quoted. “God so loved the world he gave…” (John 3:16). Love gives and as John walked with Jesus day after day he saw that played out over and over again.
   Jesus gave sight to the blind (John 9:1-11). He gave healing to the invalid (John 5:2-9). He gave bread to the multitude (John 6:1-13). He gave life to the dead (John 11:1-45). He gave glory to the Father (John 17:1-5) and ultimately He gave His life for the sins of the world (John 19). He gave His life out of love. This year let Christ be your Valentine. He died to make you His.

Dear Lord, help me grasp the magnitude of Your incomprehensible love for me. ~ Amen

February 3, 2013

Leaving a Priceless Inheritance

A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children,… ~ Proverbs 13:22a

   Birthdays tend to bring with them an interesting mix of reflection on the past and dreams for the future. This year, for me, the mix is particularly intense perhaps due to the birth of my first granddaughter Scarlett last month combined with my looming half a century birthday this month. While I am still young at heart, trust me, I am very aware that outwardly this body is “wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Time becomes more precious with age and often our priorities shift as we come to realize relationships not riches make up a full and happy life. Most of us will not leave huge bank accounts or acres of land to our children’s children. The good news is that an inheritance doesn't have to be monetary or even physical. It can be much richer and deeper than that. 
   While studying Scripture this past week, not surprisingly, I was curious to read about grandmothers. I discovered that Scripture clearly describes only two grandmothers and their relationship with a grandchild. Each description is comprised of only one verse, one Old Testament, one New Testament, one negative, one positive. 
   Maacah, which means “dull, stupid,” was the grandmother of King Asa of Judah. King Asa had his faults but was considered a righteous king. His zeal was toward maintaining the traditional worship of God while snuffing out idolatry and the immoralities associated with it. King Asa did not inherit his love for God or his worship of God from his grandmother. In fact the Bible tells us the complete opposite is true. While most grandmothers would be proud of such a Godly grandson, Maacah actually took part in the idolatries King Asa abhorred. Staying true to the Lord meant dealing harshly with his grandmother; “King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole…” (2 Chronicles 15:16).  
   Lois, which means “more desirable, better,” was the grandmother of Timothy, who was a friend and trusted coworker of the Apostle Paul. Timothy was respected for his faith in God and his faithfulness in ministry. Paul loved him as a son (I Timothy 1:2), esteemed his compassion and commitment above all others (Philippians 2:20-22), and in death requested his companionship (2 Timothy 4:9). According to Paul, Timothy inherited his sincere faith from his grandmother; “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Lois must have known faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17) for she taught Timothy Scripture from birth; “…continue in what you have learned… because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3: 14-15).  
​    Ultimately our children and our children’s children will follow their own path but make no mistake about it—we can have a position of influence in their lives and leave them a priceless inheritance of sincere faith. Lois is the more desirable and better grandmother. She is the kind of grandmother I want to be.

Dear Lord, keep me in Your Word so I may give it to those You have entrusted to me as a priceless inheritance of sincere faith. ~ Amen

January 27, 2013

A Time To Be Born

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born...
 ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NKJV)

   Scarlett Lynn Rooks (aka my first grandchild) was born Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm. It was a bit of a surprise to all of us because she was not due till Friday, February 8. However, it was no surprise to God. All the days ordained for her were written in His book “before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). The thought makes me smile because long before we knew my daughter Kaitlyn and son-in-law Brandon were going to have a little girl we called her “To Be.” My dear friend gave me the idea based on Ecclesiastes 3:2 and the fact there is “a time to be born.” Scarlett Lynn Rooks was meant “to be.” 
   The birth of a child is a miracle. I always believed that but I knew it full well when I gave birth to my own babies. Yet it is even a greater miracle to watch your baby have a baby. Kaitlyn was brave and strong throughout labor and Brandon was a gentle and supportive coach. My eldest amazed me as during part of active labor she used a “birthing ball” and occasionally was even standing upright! She was on the “birthing ball,” Brandon behind her rubbing her back, me standing in front for support when a particularly painful contraction came. She grabbed hold of me twisting my shirt sleeves in fisted hands, screamed in pain and cried out, “I can’t do this!” I assured her, “Yes you can and you are!” And ultimately she did.  
   It was excruciating to see my daughter in so much pain, but it was exhilarating to watch her push through the pain of labor to the joy of birth. I stood in awe, an eye witness to the miracle of new life; a life that was meant “to be,” a life with God-ordained purpose. My eyes glistened with tears as Scarlett, just minutes old, snuggled up to Kaitlyn’s chest, curled in her mama’s arms; my baby holding her baby. I don’t think I've ever seen anything so beautiful. I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving and kissed them both.
   In her short life (not even a week old as I write this) Scarlett has smiled and cried, gotten bathed several times and gone through over a pack of diapers, left the sterile hospital for the warmth of home, and been held by numerous family and friends. She is healthy, wanted, well cared for and loved. Her second night home Scarlett fell asleep in my arms and I had the privilege of taking her upstairs and putting her to bed. As I laid her in the crib her eyes popped open. I expected her to start crying but instead she just stared up at me. I stared back completely smitten. 
   I whispered a prayer, “Oh God I know Scarlett was meant ‘to be’ born but now oh Lord what is she meant ‘to be?’ And what is my role?” Her eyes closed slowly then blinked open fast. I smiled and told her my desire for her. “Oh Miss Scarlett I want you ‘to be’ as in love with Jesus as He is with you.” She grinned, rolled on her side and closed her eyes in sleep. Turning to make my way back downstairs God reminded me of His promise in Deuteronomy 7:9, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him...” I smiled for the promise makes my role clear; I must first love God and then tell Scarlett of His love for her. 

Dear Lord, thank You for the miracle of birth and the fact that every child born is meant “to be.”May my love for You spur my children and grandchildren on to love You as well. ~ Amen  

January 20, 2013

Passing God’s Tests

Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. 
The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. 
In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. ~ Exodus 16:4

   I admire my daughter Jaclyn for many reasons but one in particular is that she is such a good student. Spring semester college classes began for her this week and every night I went into her room to say goodnight and found her studying intently. It is her habit to read and re-read her teachers instructions, do extra credit whenever it is available and to pass every test with flying colors.
   While her grades are impressive, they come because she has disciplined herself to follow instructions and do her best. Her grades have always reflected her discipline, graduating from high school as Valedictorian and thus far getting straight A's in college. Like me, the Israelites could have learned a thing or two from my youngest daughter.
   The result of following God’s instructions is passing His tests with flying colors. Frankly, some of us do not even read instructions making it impossible to follow them. We prefer to simply make them up as we go along. A student would be foolish not to read the syllabus for a class. Likewise we as disciples “learners, pupils” would be foolish not to read our Teacher’s syllabus: the Bible. While many things about our God are incomprehensible and remain a mystery, God’s instructions to us are typically clear and concise.
   God gave two instructions in the desert. The first, “…gather enough for that day…no one is to keep any of it until morning” (Exodus 16:16, 19). The Israelites failed the first test, "some of them paid no attention…they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell…” (Exodus 16:20). God’s second instruction was, “Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any” (Exodus 16:26). In other words, “Don’t gather on the Sabbath.” Simple enough, but the Israelites failed the second test too. “Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none” (Exodus 16:27).
   Now before we go muttering under our breath about the Israelites inability to pass God’s tests let’s look at our own GPA. God’s instructions to us can be found in the gospels and are written in red. Two immediately come to mind, “Love one another” (John 13:34) and “…forgive men when they sin against you…” (Matthew 6:14). Honestly, I am more like the Israelites than I want to be. I too fail to follow God’s instructions and therefore do not always pass His divine tests.
   Ultimately, all God’s instructions are a test of our obedience to Him and our trust in Him. Living in obedience and trust is to enter our personal Promise Land. Whether we pass the tests or not the Promise Land is still ours. The tests simply determine how long we spend in the desert. May God find us studying intently so we can pass His tests with flying colors. They’re the most important tests of all.
Dear Lord, I am tired of the desert. I want the Promise Land of obedience and trust. 
Help me study to show myself approved before You (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).
Help me pass any test You may have for me today. ~ Amen

January 13, 2013

The Divine Stare

So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. ~ Luke 15:20

   Last week’s devotional focused on what we are staring at and hopefully it is God. This week we will focus on the object of God’s divine stare. In my study last week I discovered the amazing fact that God wants our attention fixed on Him because His attention is fixed on us. You see (pun intended) God wants us staring at Him because He’s staring at us!
   The word “saw” or “horao” in Greek which means “to see with the eye; to see with the mind, to stare at” is found throughout the New Testament. The first time it is used is when the wise men “saw” the star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2) and one of the last times it is used is when John “saw” the glorified Christ in a vision on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:17). Fascinating yes but what took my breath away was the first time the word “horao” is used in reference to Jesus and what catches His eye.
   The first time Jesus stares, according to Scripture, is when He is walking beside the Sea of Galilee and “saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen” (Matthew 4:18). Jesus stares again when He sees James and John (Matthew 4:21), Matthew (Matthew 9:9) and Nathanael (John 1:47-48). Please picture it with me, God Himself captivated by, attention fixed upon, loving eyes glued to these men who would be His apostles; these men who would spread the Gospel and give their lives for their Savior. Jesus “saw” all of them before He called them.
   The parable of the prodigal son makes it clear that God “saw” us too, even when we were “still a long way off” (Luke 15:20). And God sees us now. In a hectic world with people coming and going it is easy to feel lost, overlooked, or even invisible. Let us take heart; we are NEVER invisible to God. While the angels worship Him day and night in glory we are the object of His affection. He is captivated by us. We are the ones He stares at in love and smiles at in love when we stare back.
   God sees His own and longs for His own to see Him. God knows seeing Him is the key to being like Him. The day is coming when we will literally see God “…we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). God in all His glory—no doubt we will “stare at” Him. No doubt on that day He will have our undivided attention. He will be all we see. 
   Finally the created will be enraptured by and in love with the Creator as the Creator has always been enraptured by and in love with the created. Then we will have an eternity to stare upon the One who has been staring at us for so long. God stares at us through eyes of grace seeing us through the blood of His Son which makes us “holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27) and therefore beautiful in His sight. That is the divine stare; the gaze of God that sees us as we will be and not as we are.

Dear Lord, You are the God who sees and You see me. You stare at me with eyes of love for I am Yours. 
I praise You for You have made me beautiful in Your sight. Oh Lord help me to see You in all Your beauty 
until the day I can behold You in all Your glory. ~ Amen

January 6, 2013

What Are You Staring At?

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; 
he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. ~ Hebrews 11:27

   Leaving Egypt wasn’t easy. Leaving bondage never is. It is hard enough to go on an extended trip with four people, let alone over two million (Exodus 12:37-38). Not fearing the king’s anger wasn't easy. Conquering fear never is. It is hard enough to stand up to or go against family, friends, or an employer, let alone the most powerful man in the known world. 
   How was it that Moses, a murderer and fugitive, a man of “faltering lips” (Exodus 6:30) could lead a people from captivity to freedom “by faith,” and command as well as confront a king without fear? The answer is found in the second half of Hebrews 11:27, “he persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (emphasis added). You see perseverance has very little to do with our strengths and talents but everything to do with our perspective. 
  Scripture tells us Moses “persevered because he saw” (emphasis added). The word “persevered” in the Greek is kratos, which means “force, strength, power, might, dominion.” Moses made it into the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith by fulfilling his call with might and power, dominating his fears, and forcing Pharaoh to bow to the command of God, “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1). While his perseverance makes him a hero of faith it is vital for us to understand that what enabled him, what empowered him to persevere was what he saw; Moses “persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (emphasis added). 
  The word “saw” in the Greek is horao which means “to see with the eye; to see with the mind” but here’s my favorite, “to stare at.” We stare at someone when we are captivated by them. When we stare at someone we focus all our attention on them, they are all we see. Moses persevered because he saw God. He saw God with his eyes. He saw God with his mind. Moses was able to see “him who is invisible” in both ways because he “stared at” Him—he focused his attention on God .
  It is easy to see God with our eyes when we look at a salmon sunrise or watch a newborn sleep. It is harder when the Red Sea lies before us and an angry enemy is close behind (Exodus 14). To see God in the hard times we must turn our eyes upon Him, fix our eyes on Him—we must “stare at” Him. It is easy to see God with our minds in times of quiet meditation or in Bible study. It is harder when those in our charge are grumbling and complaining against us and nothing seems to be going right (Numbers 14:1-4). To see God in the hard times we must focus our attention on Him, not our circumstances—we must “stare at” Him with eyes of faith.  
  Staring at God helps us to both stand firm and keep going. This fact should give us hope. It makes it possible for you and me to make it into the Hall of Faith, for we too can fulfill our call with power. We can have dominion over our fears. We can force every stronghold to bow in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). By faith we can say goodbye to bondage, not fearing the prince of this world’s fury (John 12:31). We can persevere. We can see “him who is invisible.” 
  Seeing is persevering. So what are you staring at?

Dear Lord, Help me to daily turn my eyes upon You, to focus my attention on You, to stare at You. 
Seeing omnipotent You strips my problems of their power over me. ~ Amen 

December 30, 2012

Happy New Name

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 
To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone 
with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. ~ Revelation 2:17

   This week we will celebrate the coming of a New Year. There is cause for celebration for it is a turning point, a new beginning, a time to start over. The New Year beckons us to focus on the promise of the future instead of the problems of the past. 
   While contemplating this holiday the Lord kept bringing Revelation 2:17 to mind. Going back to it over and over again in the last couple of weeks it suddenly dawned on me that a new name is far better than a New Year. 
   Names are important to us. Parents-to-be spend months deciding what they will name their baby. When someone forgets our name or calls us by the wrong name it can hurt. Why? I believe it’s because, in a way, our names define us. And I am not alone. This was deeply believed in ancient Jewish culture. Your name was representative of who you were, not only physically but in character as well. 
   Names are very important to God. God Himself named Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:9), John the Baptist (Luke 1:13) and of course His One and Only Son, Jesus (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31). And ultimately when God opens the books (Daniel 7:10, Revelation 20:12) it is where our name is written that determines our eternal destiny (Revelation 3:5, 20:15). 
   What is interesting about God and names is His propensity to give heroes of faith new ones. Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:5). Jacob became Israel (Genesis 35::10). Simon became Peter (John 1:42). Saul became Paul (Acts 13:9). God gave them new names to reflect what and who they would be, not what and who they were. Abraham, “father of a multitude,” would become the father of many nations. Israel, “God strives, God rules, God heals,” would have twelve sons, who would become the twelve tribes of the nation bearing his name. The nation God would strive for, rule over, and heal again and again. Peter, “rock,” would become the solid, stable leader of the first church. Paul, “small or little,” would become the greatest apostle for in God’s economy “he who is the least (small, little) among you all—he is the greatest” (Luke 9:48). Paul’s attitude of considering himself “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) would inadvertently propel him to greatness.
   Interesting? Yes. However, you are probably wondering, “What does this have to do with me?” The answer is: everything, if you’re a believer. You see, Revelation 2:17 tells us God does not just give a new name to those we consider heroes of faith--He gives a new name to everyone who “overcomes.” That includes you and me! God has given each of us a new name! A name that represents not what we are but what we will become with God’s help. Gideon was a coward hiding in a cave when God called him “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).  
   So happy New Name! Don’t you wonder what yours is? Just imagine that no matter what or who you are right now this could be the year you finally live up to that name, the one written by God Himself on your heavenly white stone. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Dear Lord, I am Your child and You have given me a new name. Help me to 
live up to it by becoming all You created me to be. ~ Amen

December 23, 2012

Oh Holy Night

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field… And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them… And the angel said unto them, Fear not:…For unto you is born this day 
in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host 
praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.~ Luke 2:8-14

   Have we heard the Christmas story so many times that it no longer moves us? Did you actually read all the words in the passage above or just skim them or perhaps not even read them at all? Let’s be honest, after awhile the same old story can be just that—the same old story. Sometimes what makes a story so special is what lead up to it. Sure we may all know Luke 2 but how familiar are we with Malachi 3 and 4? While we might not know the book of Malachi very well I bet the shepherds had it memorized. Let me explain.
   When Christ was born it had been nearly 600 years since the spirit of the Lord left the temple (Ezekiel 10-11) and 400 years since a prophet of the Lord, declared “the word of the Lord.” That’s right; God was silent for the 400 years between the Old and New Testament! Can you imagine? Not hearing a fresh word from the Lord in 400 years! Wouldn't you cling to, read, and re-read His last words? The Minor Prophets we tend to ignore must have been the obsession of those desperate for a word from the Lord.
   You see God’s presence departed the temple because of terrible sin going on inside it, in secret (Ezekiel 8:6) and perhaps God stopped speaking because man had stopped listening. Yet even in the worst of times, when man seems totally sinful against God and completely deaf to God there has always been, and there will always be a faithful “remnant” (2 King 19:30, Isaiah 37:31, Romans 11:5). The shepherds were part of the “remnant” of the day. 
   They knew the promise of God in Malachi 3:1, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come...” Imagine with me…the shepherds, perhaps discussing this promise as they looked toward heaven at the strange and bright star in the sky that night…when BOOM! 
   They are blinded and brought to their knees as “the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them” declaring the glorious news that the Lord whom they had been seeking had indeed come! For the angel said, “…unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” They barely have time to comprehend the announcement when “suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host” join the angel. Multitude in the Greek means, “a great number, to fill.” Do you see what the shepherds saw? The sky was literally filled with angels that night singing praises to God. Can you imagine?
   What a glorious way for God the Father to break 400 years of silence. What a glorious birth announcement He gave His only Son, the long awaited, promised Savior of the world. O holy night for not just the shepherds but us, His “remnant” in this day, as well.

Dear Lord, It was such a holy night when You were born that Your Father and the angels could not stay silent. 
Forgive our silence. May we shout from our rooftops Happy Birthday Jesus. Happy Birthday Savior. ~ Amen

December 16, 2012

The Perfect Tree

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; 
by his wounds you have been healed. ~ 1 Peter 2:24

   It is late as I sit down writing this devotional. The dogs are asleep at my feet. The rest of the family is sleeping as well. The house is quiet and dark, except for the glow of my laptop screen and the lights dotting our Christmas tree. There is something mesmerizingly beautiful about a lighted Christmas tree at night.
   Staring at it floods me with memories of our search each year for the “perfect tree”. There was the year Ken chopped down a huge pine in our woods and cut the top off—just getting the tree to the house took all four of us, a wagon and the better part of a day. Or the year we waited until Christmas Eve and ended up trekking around a tree farm in the dark with flashlights in nearly a half of foot of snow! Oh the lengths we have gone to and the time we have spent to find the “perfect tree”. 
   Surely you must have such memories too. The problem with our family is that we each have a perception of “perfect” that is very different. Jaclyn’s “perfect tree” is tall and thin. Kaitlyn’s is short and round. Ken is partial to Charlie Brown’s tree. I prefer a full, well groomed, triangular shaped tree. No wonder each year the search for the “perfect tree” we can all agree on takes so long! 
   The memories are bittersweet. Tonight as I rock and write and pause from time to time to gaze at our Christmas tree I am struck by the beauty of the lights hanging upon it. Oh Christmas tree, oh “perfect tree”. 
   A few weeks ago a special friend shared a song with me I had never heard before. The words to “The Perfect Tree” by Ray Boltz are beautiful and lend themselves to this devotional, especially the chorus:
The perfect tree
Grew very long ago
And it was not decked with silver
Or with ornaments of gold
But hanging from its branches
Was a gift for you and me
Jesus laid His life down
On the perfect tree
   Reflecting on those words it suddenly hit me that what really makes the “perfect tree” to us is not the tree itself but what hangs upon it—the ornaments, the lights. Truly what made the “perfect tree” so very long ago was “the light of the world” (John 8:12) who hung upon it for you and for me. 
   This Christmas as we celebrate our Savior’s birth let us reflect on what the last stanza of the song says, “That every step this baby took brought Him closer to the cross.” Christ was born to die—for us. Searching for the “perfect tree”? Look no further than the cross. 

Dear Lord, You are the perfect Savior who laid Your life down on the perfect tree for me. I am forever grateful. ~ Amen

December 9, 2012

The Sign of the Season

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child  
and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. ~ Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:22-23

   Isaiah the prophet of God and Ahaz the evil king of Judah were having a conversation. Ahaz was in an uproar because Israel and Syria have joined forces to attack Jerusalem. The Word of the Lord through Isaiah was that God would save Jerusalem and the alliance would not prevail. However, Ahaz did not believe even when God instructed him to, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights" (Isaiah 7:11). God was willing to give a sign to Ahaz to prove His Word is true! Yet in false piety Ahaz refused to ask for a sign declaring, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). Yet that did not change the fact that the Word of the LORD is true—He saved Jerusalem and the alliance between Israel and Syria did not prevail. Nor did it prevent the Lord Himself from giving a sign to prove His Word is true (Isaiah 7:14). 
   This time of year signs of the season are everywhere. Halls are decked. Stores are stuffed. Trees are up. “Holiday” music comes over the radio. Sweet smells come from the kitchen. People make lists and check them more than twice in hopes of finding the perfect gift. It seems presents have taken precedence and decorations dominate. Sadly, to a large degree, signs of the season have been relegated to multi-colored lights and wreaths, Santa and reindeer.  
   Yet it was “the Lord himself” who gave us the one true sign of the season: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, God with us” (Matthew 1: 22-23). Therefore, we must purpose in our hearts despite all the commercialization of Christmas not to lose sight of the sign the Lord Himself gave. Christmas is not houses outlined in multi-colored lights. It is a heavenly host of angels lighting up the night sky proclaiming the babe lying in a manger to be Immanuel—God with us. Christmas is not wreaths made of pine boughs. It is God trading a throne made of sapphire (Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1) for a bed made of straw to be Immanuel—God with us. Christmas is not Santa and reindeer. It is wise men on camels following the Bethlehem star and traveling from afar to bestow gifts and worship upon Immanuel—God with us.  
   The birth of Christ is God’s sign to prove His Word is true. Ahaz never got to see the sign but we have (John 1:14). The perfect Christmas gift was not wrapped in shiny paper but in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12)—the Word made flesh (John 1:14). You see the true sign of Christmas is Immanuel—God with us. 

Dear Lord, thank You for the sign that proves Your Word is true; Immanuel—God with us. Help me not to lose sight of it 
this Christmas or through the coming year. ~ Amen

December 2, 2012

My Confidence

For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. ~ Psalm 71:5

   Confidence, properly placed and balanced, is a beautiful thing. A confident person can seem to command a room and appear to have great success in most areas of life. However, when a person has too much confidence they are perceived as conceited and when having too little they are branded as spineless. Confidence is a slippery slope. This is true not only in regards to quantity but in source. Who or what do we put our confidence in or from where do we get our confidence?
   Modern psychology shouts for us to be self confident while gurus of advertising coerce us to put our confidence in whatever they are selling. Most of us know ourselves well enough to know we are way too insecure to find true confidence or security in “me, myself, or I.” Likewise most of us have placed our confidence in someone or something else, only to be betrayed or disappointed, unraveling our confidence in mankind.
   You see confidence is a delicate tapestry woven of trust, hope and security. When we have confidence in someone we trust in them. We confide in them. We believe in who they are and what they can do. When we have hope in something we support it, promote it and are motivated by it. When we are secure with someone we can be both vulnerable and bold with them. There is no fear where there is security.
   Confidence and fearlessness walk hand in hand. So who better to tell us where to find true confidence then David—the boy who slain a giant. The shepherd king tells us in Psalm 71:5 the Sovereign LORD is to be our confidence. The Israelites feared Goliath (1 Samuel 17:11, 24) because their confidence was in the wrong place and therefore out of balance. If we are honest we fear many things as well. We fear the unknown. We fear rejection. We fear man. We fear the giants in our lives. We are not alone for repeatedly the LORD had to say to the disciples, “Fear not” (Matthew 10:28; Luke 5:10; Luke 12:7, 32). 
   Whenever you find yourself fearful chances are you have shifted your confidence from the Sovereign LORD onto someone or something else. So when fear comes spend time with the One who is your only source for true, unwavering confidence. Remember when the Sovereign LORD is your confidence you can face any enemy boldly and walk through any circumstance with hope.  
   Christians are not to be conceited or spineless. Rather with the Sovereign LORD as their confidence they are to stand firm and beautifully for Him.

Dear Lord, Fear needs not rob me of my confidence rather may it alert me that I have misplaced it. 
For You are my confidence and in You I find hope, security and boldness. ~ Amen

November 25, 2012

The Center of the Bible

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. ~ Psalm 118:8 (NIV)

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. ~ Psalm 118:8 (NKJV)

   A couple weeks ago I received an email from a friend with an attachment entitled, The Center of the Bible. I was amazed by what I read and have been pondering it ever since. My friend said the LORD led her to this the day after the election which is poignant in itself. God does nothing without purpose and His timing is always perfect. Watch this.
   The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117 (2 verses). The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119 (176 verses). The center chapter of the Bible is Psalm 118 as there are 594 chapters before it and 594 chapters after it. If you add those numbers together you get 1188 and Psalm 118:8 just happens to be the center verse of the Bible. Isn’t God amazing?  
   I would like to give credit to whoever discovered this truth and created the original email but I do not have that information. However, we know it was God who ultimately designed the Bible to work out in such a miraculous way. Further personal study made this verse even more meaningful.
   Going back to the original Hebrew the word for “better” in this verse literally means better in every sense—body, mind and soul. It is to our “welfare, prosperity, and happiness” to “take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” The words “to take refuge” literally mean to “flee for protection, to put trust in, to confide and hope in.” Jehovah is the Hebrew word for “the LORD” in this verse, referencing the “supreme God, the existing One.” Finally, the end of the verse “than to trust in man” warns us not to “feel safe, be secure, or have confidence” in “mankind” even at his best. Simply stated, the center verse in the Bible tells us that the LORD should be the center of our lives. He is the only one worthy of our trust and confidence. He is the only one with whom we are truly safe and secure.
   The most beautiful discovery I made in studying this powerful verse at the hub of God’s holy Word is that Psalm 118 is the last Psalm of the Hallel (Song of praise). In Jewish tradition the Hallel (Psalm 113-118) was recited in homes as part of the Passover celebration. It is believed Psalm 118 was written for the Feast of Tabernacles and sung at the first celebration when the Israelites returned from the Exile. Expressions from this psalm were on the lips of the people at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover week (Psalm 118:25-26; Matthew 21:9). But what brings tears to my eyes is that Psalm 118 was sung in the Upper Room after the Last Supper (Matthew 26:30).  
   Please take the time this week to read Psalm 118 in its entirety. Pray for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and as you read the Psalm envision Jesus, the perfect Passover Lamb; the Great Deliverer; the Savior of man singing those words just hours before dying on the cross. If you do, it will deepen your love for the LORD and renew His rightful place in the center of your life.

Dear Lord, Whenever I am tempted to trust in others over You take me to the center of Your Word and 
help me to keep You at the center of my life. ~ Amen

November 18, 2012

Give Thanks to the LORD

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 
~ I Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1

   This week of Thanksgiving as we count our blessings many things come to mind: family and friends, food and clothes, health and home. Truly each is a blessing, a gift directly from the hand of Almighty God for, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). 
   Often our thankfulness, though directed at God, is focused on what He has done for us and what He has given us. Obviously we are to give thanks for both however, as I contemplated and meditated on the true reason for giving thanks the Lord brought me to 1 Chronicles 16:34. This verse is part of a Psalm of David which is also repeated by the shepherd king in four other Psalms (106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1). The original Psalm was written in praise and thanksgiving as the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to Jerusalem from the house of Obed-Edom (I Chronicles 15:25) in triumphant procession.
   A verse that is repeated six times in Scripture deserves a closer look. And a closer look reveals that we are called to give thanks to the LORD not for what He has done or what He has given but simply because of who He is. The Ark of the Covenant was symbolic of the very presence of God Himself and therefore all He is. David makes it clear that God is the LORD—all caps. He reigns from His throne in heaven over the earth and all its inhabitants. He is Yahweh; Jehovah; the Great I AM. If there was no one to praise and thank Him for who He is the very rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40)—He Himself is that worthy of praise and thanksgiving.
   He is the LORD and He is good. His ways and thoughts are good. His plans and purposes are good. His Word is good. There is nothing dark, false, evil, or bad in the LORD. He is good through and through. That is why ultimately, “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose” (Romans 8:28). Because He is good all the works of His hand are good as well.
   He is the LORD, He is good and His love endures forever. The disciple whom Jesus loved tells and echoes the truth, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) in his first epistle. However, God is not love like the world knows it or defines it. God is the love everyone longs for but can only find in Him, “What a man desires is unfailing love…” (Proverbs 19:22). The love that is God is hard to grasp for it is beyond measure (Ephesians 3:18) and once discovered cannot be lost for nothing can separate us from it (Romans 8:39). His love endures forever for He Himself is everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 103:17). In light of all He is, who are we that such a great and mighty God is mindful of us, cares for us, and loves us (Psalm 8:4)?  
   So this Thanksgiving as we gather around the table with family and friends and give thanks to God for His wonders (all He has done) and His provision (all He has given) let us not forget to thank Him simply for being Himself—the LORD, good and loving. If He was all we had it would be more than enough for He is all we need.  

Dear Lord, I give thanks to You this Thanksgiving for all You are. You are the LORD God Almighty. You are good. You are love.  
When I have You I have all I need. ~ Amen

November 11, 2012

Perishable to Imperishable

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." ~ I Corinthians 15:54

  We were minutes from pulling into the parking lot of the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough when my husband Ken got the call. “Now, just now!” he seemed to scream into the phone. Driving, he pulled over, listened for a moment then whispered, “Okay” and hung up. His eyes glistened with tears as he turned to me and said, “We’re too late. She’s gone.”
  After a few moments Ken decided he still wanted to go and pay his last respects to his grandmother with whom he had stayed many summers as a teenager. During those summer visits countless hours were spent together talking while tossing a football in the yard. Unbeknownst to them as the ball spun in the air between them it was spinning an invisible bond between them as well. Each toss, every word wove their hearts together in the priceless and beautiful way only time shared can.
  We arrived at the hospice house within minutes, checked in at the front desk and walked the corridor to room 104. Ken paused and sighed heavily before opening the door. The spacious room was dimly lit and silent. Nana’s body lay on a bed in front of a large window, drapes partially drawn. She was tucked in with a sheet pulled up to her neck. Her head slightly tilted rested upon a pillow. The side lighting of the afternoon sun caused the white sheets to glow amber yet did not completely mask her growing gray complexion. My heart sank with the setting sun as I thought of Nana dying alone. I had a dream the night before that Ken and I were with her when she passed. My dream had been so close to coming true.  
I went to her bed side, tears stinging my cheeks. Placing my hand over hers which were folded on her stomach beneath the sheet I was struck by how frail the hands that once tossed a football with my husband had become. I touched her forehead, still warm. I ran my hand over her shiny, straight white hair, still soft. Tears burned my eyes and my voice cracked as I whispered, “I’m sorry.” 
   A hospice nurse came into the room and reassured us with the fact that Nana’s pastor had been with her, praying over her when she peacefully left this world. Ken’s younger brother Dana and his family arrived. There were tears, hugs and remembrances. Dana’s oldest son Judah placed a single rose on Nana’s chest. Then the caretaker from the funeral home came to take her body away. The hospice nurses formed a line from the front door standing in reverence and we followed the gurney carrying Nana’s body as it was wheeled from room 104 down the corridor and out to the waiting hearse. 
   The experience was strangely beautiful as I envisioned the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) forming a line at the gates of heaven, not in silent reverence but in sublime rejoicing as Nana went from perishable to imperishable. She breathed her last breath here only to breathe her first in eternity. Heaven is after all only a breath away and no one who is in Christ ever dies alone for they are never without Him in this life or the next (Matthew 28:20). Hallelujah!!!  

Dear Lord, Thank you for the truth that death, though painful for those left behind, has indeed been swallowed up in victory. ~ Amen

November 4, 2012

The Great I AM

When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. ~ John 18:6

   The time had come. Sweating drops of blood Jesus agonized in prayer wanting the cup of the crucifixion to be taken from Him but wanting the Father’s will even more (Mark 14:36). He rose from His knees with a renewed determination to lay down His life (John 10:17-18) for sinners like me and you—to die in our place while we were yet His enemy (Romans 5:6-10). Such determination was necessary, for Christ could have easily stopped the journey to the cross at any time as John 18:6 so beautifully illustrates.
   Judas the betrayer had guided “a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees” to the Mount of Olives and “they were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons” (John 18:3). No doubt they marched into the grove arrogantly thinking they could take Jesus of Nazareth by force if need be. They had no comprehension they were powerless to take Jesus anywhere. Imagine the scene as “Jesus, knowing what was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?" (John 18:4). Jesus faces His enemy head on and questions them. Their reply, “Jesus of Nazareth” (John 18:5) makes it clear the soldiers, chief priests and Pharisees do not know Jesus for they do not recognize Him as the one they have come to arrest.
 Three words from Jesus, “I am he,” cause the whole detachment to draw back and fall to the ground (John 18:6)! So is the power of the Great I AM. His enemies cannot stand against Him—they must bow to the power of His presence and His word. When the detachment involuntarily bow to the One they have come to capture—Jesus questions them again and secures safety from arrest for His disciples, “If you are looking for me, then let these men go” (John 18:8) thereby fulfilling the Father’s will and His words, “I have not lost one of those you gave me” (John 6:39, 18:9). 
   Zealous Peter takes advantage of the enemies vulnerable position on the ground and draws his sword, cutting off the right ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus (John 18:10) but Christ commands and rebukes him saying, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John18:11). Jesus healed Malchus’ ear with a touch (Luke 22:51) and then allowed the detachment to take Him, “Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him” (John 18:12).
   Throughout the Gospel of John Christ boldly declared Himself “the bread of life…the light of the world…the door...the good shepherd…the resurrection and the life…the way, the truth and the life…the true vine” (John 6:35, 8:12, 10:7, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1). He is all these and so much more “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). In other words Christ Jesus is the Great I AM personified! And one day at the very name of Jesus every knee will bow, just as the detachment did one dark night long ago. 

Dear Lord, this week with hurricane Sandy behind us and the election in front of us 
help me to take hope in the fact You are the Great I AM. 
You are all powerful and nothing happens outside Your control. Ultimately Your purposes will be accomplished and Your will be done. 
Praise Your Holy Name. ~ Amen

October 28, 2012

The True Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” ~ John 15:1

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 
~ John 15:5

   After the Last Supper was finished Christ went as usual to the Mount of Olives and His disciples followed Him (Luke 22:39). Most Biblical scholars agree that John 15 and 16 is the discourse Christ gave to His disciples during their final familiar walk. It would be easy to surmise that as they passed by the great golden vine on the front of the temple Christ began to say, “I am the true vine…” (John 15:1).  
   Like a vine Christ was planted in the vineyard of earth for a purpose, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14). Like a vine He was unspectacular in appearance (Isaiah 53:2). As a vine spreads so the gospel of Christ will spread to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, Acts 13:47). As the fruit of the vine honors the Creator and brings happiness to the people (Judges 9:13) so does the fruit which Christ produces, which is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). An unfruitful tree is like a lie, a promise not kept (Habakkuk 3:17). Christ is the “true vine” (John 15:1) for He is Truth which produces “much fruit” (John 15:5). 
   Christ is the vine and we are the branches. The single purpose of a branch is to bear fruit—not produce it. It is the “true vine” which produces fruit. A branch can only bear the fruit which the vine produces through it. Therefore, as Christians if we want to “bear much fruit” we must “remain” in Christ (John 15:4). In the Greek “remains” means “to continue to be present; to be held, kept, continually; to remain as one.” It is important to note that remaining or abiding (KJV) in Christ implies a sense of stillness. Often it is our way to get busy in order to “bear fruit.” This is not the way of the kingdom. Scripture teaches, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  
   It is there in the stillness, in the continual presence and embrace of the “true vine” that we come to grasp the truth Jesus gave His disciples, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). You and I can do NOTHING apart from Christ that has any eternal value or merit. Forget big things, we cannot even do small things for the kingdom apart from Christ. We can do NOTHING; especially bear spiritual fruit without Christ. We cannot bear the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) in ourselves for we are but branches. It is Christ alone who enables us to “bear much fruit” for He is the “true vine.

Dear Lord, May I understand it is You alone, the true vine, who produces fruit in my life. I cannot produce fruit I can only bear the fruit You produce through me. I can do nothing without You. Help me remain in You that I might bear much fruit for Your honor and glory. ~ Amen  

October 21, 2012

A House of Prayer

And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: 
"'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? …" ~ Mark 11:17

   The word of the Lord first came to Isaiah and then was echoed by Christ Himself, “My house will be called a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). This past Sunday I had the privilege of worshiping at The Brooklyn Tabernacle—a church that truly understands and has seen the blessing of being “a house of prayer for all nations.” 
   Upon entering the sanctuary I saw people sitting in their seats praying forty five minutes before the service began. When leaving the church after their third two hour service of the day I saw a precious woman lingering in her seat—praying. The Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting was talked about repeatedly in both services I attended and people were encouraged to come. It begins at 7:00 pm but the doors open at 5:00 pm to accommodate all the people. Trust me I would have been there if it was not 384 miles away from my home in Maine. 
   When Pastor Jim Cymbala was called to The Brooklyn Tabernacle in the early 1970's the congregation numbered less than twenty people and met in a small, dilapidated building. They realized immediately the necessity of real prayer and so the Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting became the central feature in the life of the church. Nearly thirty years later it still is as over 10,000 people gather each week in a beautifully restored theatre in the heart of Brooklyn. While Pastor Cymbala might miss a Sunday (which he did the Sunday I visited) he rarely misses a Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting for he sees it as central to the growth and outreach of the church.
   Leaving church that day I realized that The Brooklyn Tabernacle is not Jim Cymbala’s church it is God’s church. Jim was absent but God was present. The worship of God was so genuine. Though the Grammy-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir of 200 members sang in front of me, there was a larger choir behind me as the congregation sang and worshiped God with all their hearts. The presence of God was so real that at the end of both services the altar and aisles were lined with people responding to the message. 
   I left “The Tab” on cloud nine from such a wonderful experience of the worship and presence of God. However, my heart was also heavy as I thought of churches where prayer meetings barely exist and how lack of real prayer gives the devil a foothold and causes many churches to fail even if their doors remain open. I resolved then that I want my church to be “a house of prayer for all nations.”

Dear Lord, It is Your desire for every church that bares Your name and preaches Your gospel to be a house of prayer. Make my church a house of prayer for all nations and may it begin with me. ~ Amen

October 14, 2012

The Way and The Truth and The Life

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:16

   The seven “I am” statements of Christ are all found in the gospel of John. There are also seven miracles found within the beloved disciple’s gospel. I believe each miracle is testimony to one of the seven “I am” statements. The healing of the royal official’s son (John 4:46-53) beautifully illustrates that Jesus is indeed, “the way and the truth and the life.” 
   Scripture does not make it clear how long the royal official’s son had lay sick but we do know that he is close to death. Any parent knows that we will do just about anything, try every remedy, medicine or therapy we believe will heal our sick child. No doubt this father, who obviously had money and clout as a “royal official” (John 4:46) did not spare cost when it came to curing his son. No doubt he tried every way he or anyone he knew could think of to make his boy well again. And nothing worked. No doctor, no medicine, no ritual had made his son any better and he was desperate to find a way to save his son. Then he heard Jesus was near (John 4:47). Surely news of Jesus and all His miracles had reached the royal official's ears and he saw Jesus as “the way” to save his son.
   The royal official “begged” (John 4:47) Jesus to come and heal his son. This was a noble man, a man of position and reputation and here he is begging for the life of his son. He wants Jesus to come now, before his son dies (John 4:49). The royal official knows that without Jesus the boy will die and Jesus knows the royal official’s heart. Jesus tells the man, “You may go. Your son will live,” and he takes Jesus at His word and heads back home (John 4:50). He believed what Jesus said was true enough to act on it. He had asked Jesus “to come and heal” his son, but Jesus assured him that his son was healed simply because He had said the boy will live. The royal official took Jesus’ words as Truth.
   Home apparently was some distance away because it is the next day when his servants meet him and give him the good news that his son was living (John 4:51)! When he inquires as to the time of the healing he learns it was “yesterday at the seventh hour” (John 4:52) he realizes that his son’s healing came at the exact time Jesus had told him, “Your son will live” (John 4:53).
   This miracle not only brought healing to the royal official’s son but it brought salvation to him and his entire household (John 4:53). For Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through” Him.

Dear Lord, Oh how I need You. Help me come to You with all my needs and then enable me to believe You for them. 
Believing Your truth brings me life abundant. ~ Amen

October 8, 2012

God Knows Me—Completely

…O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. ~ Psalm 139:1

   It is a strong human desire to be known. When someone is familiar with our habits, can finish our sentences for us, and knows what “makes us tick” there is a connection between us. The more we are known by a person the more intimate our relationship is with them.
   God is an intimate God. He doesn’t want a long distance relationship with man; He wants a “hands on” relationship with us. Look back in Genesis and see that God spoke the world into existence, but formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). In the creation of man God’s hands are stained with dirt, in the salvation of man God’s hands are stained with blood. When you make something you know it backwards and forward, inside and out. God made you and me and He knows us completely. 
   The Lord can read our minds (Psalm 139:2). He knows how we spend our days and is familiar with all our ways and habits (v. 3). He knows what our last words will be for He knows every word we will ever speak (v. 4). God is with us wherever we go (v. 7-10). We might be able to hide from ourselves and others but we can never hide from God (v. 11-12). As God knit us together in the womb He knew exactly how long we would live and the details of everyday of our lives (v. 13-16). And even now God is thinking about us (v. 17-18).
   To be known so completely leaves us vulnerable and exposed—a fearful thing. Perhaps that is why King David spent a third of the Psalm talking about trying to hide from such vulnerability (v. 7-12). However, he realizes as Adam and Eve did in the garden that it is impossible to hide from God. Therefore instead of running from the Lord, we would do well to run to Him and even ask Him to find the offensive way in us so that He can lead us away from it (v. 23-24).
   Today if you are feeling disconnected, invisible, or unknown take the time to read all of Psalm 139 and reconnect with the One who knows you best and loves you most. You are no accident. God has plans for you--very specific plans. One of those plans is that just as He knows you completely He longs for you to know Him intimately as well. 

Dear Lord, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Truly it is a miracle that You could know me completely and still love me so lavishly. Search me, try me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Amen

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 
~ Galatians 1:10
   Starting kindergarten is a big step toward growing up, spurring me to pray big prayers for Scarlett throughout the summer. My prayers were for God to put a hedge of protection around her and keep her strong. The heart of my prayers was for Scarlett to be a leader, not a follower at school. It is dangerous, both emotionally and spiritually to be a people pleaser, particularly in the cultural climate of our day. 
   I was in the midst of growling at my daughter about how mean kids can be, when I realized this was Scarlett’s first test. Would she be a people pleasing follower or an independent leader? I stopped mid growl and softly asked, “What shoes did she wear to school today?” It would have been so easy for her to hang up those Keen sandals and never wear them again, in hopes of being included in the next “Pretty Shoe Game”. My daughter smiled, “She wore her Keen sandals!”
   Scarlett not only passed the test, she taught her grandmother, Omi, a thing or two in the process! 

Dear Lord, My natural bent is to be a people pleaser rather than a God pleaser. Strengthen me this day to follow You alone and not the crowd around me. ~ Amen

Pretty Shoe Game