Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Pleasing our neighbors. We are taught that we shouldn't necessarily care what others think, or make it our goal to try and please others. So why, then, does Paul add a piece of advice in Romans 15:2, "Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification" (NASB). This is one of those verses where context is important. Romans 15:1 says, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." Ah, so those of us who are strong in the faith should take a different approach. We do not do these things to make ourselves appear better or "holier than thou", but to lift up those who are weaker. If those who are not as strong see us doing things that could make someone question our actions or beliefs, that might be construed as sinful, perhaps it's best not to do that particular thing. We can also come across as hypocritical if our words do not match our actions. Lord, show me those areas in my life that could cause others to stumble.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Free. It doesn't take very long before we humans develop a taste for freedom. As newborns, we are dependent on others for everything, but as we grow, we learn to eat, walk and communicate on our own. Think back to when you first drove a car by yourself - no parents or adults along for the ride. Remember that feeling of being free? Of course there is a great deal of responsibility attached to our freedom, but we don't always think about that. As I read Paul's words to the Galatians that we should not use I freedom to indulge the flesh, I was reminded of the Prodigal Son and how he had an overwhelming taste for freedom, but he ended up paying dearly for it. Our freedom doesn't cost us a thing (Jesus already paid that price), but it doesn't give us the green light to be foolish. Lord, let me celebrate and use my freedom wisely.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your
freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Threatened. Most of us do not fear that if we are caught praying, that we will be arrested and punished for a crime. The threat for us is not breaking the law, as in Daniel's case, but more one of interruption or lack of time/planning. We can get distracted by the busyness of our day. We may say a short "thank-you" for our meal, but when it comes to an earnest conversation with The Almighty, we sometimes fall short. It sounds odd to have set times for prayer, as was Daniel's custom (as well as some religions today). But I can certainly understand why those times were established. Lord, let me never fail, regardless of the type of threat, to get on my knees in prayer.
But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Due reward. Most of us work hard... at something. We typically do our best when a paycheck is at stake, but there are other types of rewards as well. Depending on the personality, skillset and desire, we often work our hardest perhaps when a delicious meal is the end result. Maybe it's the satisfaction of a beautiful yard, or even the kind words of someone who has noticed the results of our toils. When we do work for the Lord, we are obviously not always going to see a regular paycheck in the form of money. For previous generations, it was not uncommon to repay a debt with either a service or some other form of trade (food, livestock, furs, beads). If you feel as if your efforts are going unnoticed by everyone, especially God - remember that God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you've worked for him. Continue on - you WILL receive your reward. Lord, thank you for the many ways you reward us.
For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Reason to hope? My son frequently preaches at his church, and also recently at a small church that is currently without a pastor. I live in North Carolina and it makes it difficult for me to attend those services in Indiana. He sometimes sends me a recorded CD of the sermon, and other times he sends me his notes. He spoke last week about hope and told me a little about the message before sending me his sermon notes. He talked about the 41st day and then explained that while it rained for 40 days when Noah and his family were safely on the ark, they were still surrounded by water the next day... and for many days after that. The bible is full of examples of folks who didn't give up hope, even when there wasn't much reason to do so. We can get so wrapped up in our current problems that we cannot even imagine a positive outcome. When you become discouraged and feel there is no reason for hope, dig into scripture and find out more about Noah in Genesis chapters 7 & 8, Abraham and Sarah in Genesis chapter 17, Jonah, David, Paul, Zacchaeus, the widow, a cripple, a woman with a blood disorder, Lazarus, etc. Lord, let me never lose a reason to hope.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Joyful singing. I am not sure if the joyful singing referenced in Zephaniah 3:17 is actually coming from God's own voice, or is influenced by God in our human voices. No doubt many times you have heard a child singing innocently, unawares that anyone else could hear them. Often, I find myself humming one of the hymns from the Sunday morning church service. Or perhaps you heard a song on the radio that touched your heart as you began to sing along. Regardless of whose vocal chords, those are the times when we can almost see God smiling. Allow those moments to move you, to encourage and give strength. Lord, thank you for the joyful songs, in whatever form they occur.
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."
Monday, May 15, 2017
Lift up your eyes. Whenever we become burdened about something, especially those things of which we have no control, we often can think of nothing else. We fix our eyes on the problem instead of on our Creator, who is the only one who can truly help. If you've ever traveled through the mountains, the views can be breathtaking. The top of the mountain gives a larger-than-life perspective. The trip up the mountain can be long and seem exhaustive, and you might even drive through the clouds before reaching the top. Most of us never reach the peak, but simply drive along the paved road to reach our destination. There is no mistake, however, just how grand and majestic are those mountains. You just keep looking up and up until you reach the heavens. As you go about your day, practice looking up. Look up until you see the One who can help whatever situation is at hand. Lord, I will lift up my eyes to the mountains, because I know my help comes from You.
A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
Friday, May 12, 2017
A good woman. I've never really considered myself "good", rather simply doing the best I could. I found myself extremely humbled when I met a newfound relative of my husband's at a recent family get-together. I explained that I was the sister of one of the ladies at her church, to which she responded, "Oh, you're the one that can do anything!" I assured her that was not the case, but thanked her for the kind words. In thinking about the "Proverbs 31 woman", it is likely that you know someone exactly like her - someone who always does her best, but feels as if she should be doing more. The Message phrases the Proverbs 31 woman as simply a "good woman", not necessarily a wife or mother. With today's culture being so different than it was in biblical times, there are many who identify better with that description. We don't have to be married, or have small children to be of noble character. Watching over the affairs of a household is a difficult job, and I know many who don't slow down for much. Each lady is different and has her own spiritual gift - blessings to those special hard-working women! Lord, help me to be a woman of noble character.
Proverbs 31:10, 27-28
[ ] A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Drifting? Have you ever felt as if your prayers were going no further than the ceiling? Or perhaps your words are simply just something uttered in haste because you feel it's the "right" thing to do. If your prayer life is almost non-existent, or feels as if it's one-sided, God is not the one who has moved away. If we are not careful, our spiritual and prayer life can become idle and ineffective. We can become complacent and set in our ways, just because we think we are doing the right things. The problem can become that on the surface we are going through the motions, but it goes no deeper. I have discovered that even changing the physical position during prayer can make a difference. But if the words don't come from the heart, even those changes won't help. Lord, as Isaiah tells us, let me seek you while you are near.
Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
A brother's sin. Often times, well-meaning Christians confront fellow believers without thinking. One person's conviction does not necessarily carry over to another believer. Now a sin is a sin, regardless, but we each have individual convictions based on our own past and personality. I've seen elders in the church take it upon themselves to chastise another because they felt the actions were not something a Christian should do. Some translations state, "If your brother sins against you...". This makes it something even more personal and could indicate that unless it was directed against that individual, we should simply stay out of the other believer's business. That may be a better way to think of it. Of course, we should still pray for that believer, but keep the matter private. When all else fails, put yourself in the shoes of that individual and ask yourself how you would want the situation to be handled. Lord, help me to be sensitive to the sins of my brothers and sisters.
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Conviction. "This faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see" (Heb. 11:1 MSG). Babbie Mason's song "Trust His Heart" reminds us that, "God is too wise to be mistaken; God is too good to be unkind. So when you don't understand; when you don't see his plan; when you can't trace his hand - Trust His Heart." We may talk about having faith, or even encourage a friend to "have faith" when things get tough; but in reality, the act of faith is not easy. I'm struck by the second part of Hebrews 11:1, "The conviction of things not seen." So often we say we have faith, but we make no provisions to prove that we have such a conviction. We might pray about something and when we don't see immediate results, we assume God is not listening, or doesn't care. When we hope for something, we wait patiently, watching for even the smallest signs that it will come to pass. If you are in a drought and pray for rain - grab the umbrella and look to the heavens. Lord, even when I don't see visual signs of things I've hoped and prayed for, let me have faith to patiently watch for something grand to happen!
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Just right. Having never pretending to be a gourmet chef, I'll admit that those salt and pepper grinders make me feel as if I'm adding just the right amount of seasoning to whatever meal I'm preparing. Recently, on more than one occasion, however, the fancy dispensers have dispersed more than I anticipated as the lid came off. Too much salt is not good either. Spiritually speaking, when we interact with others, we can come across as either too bold or completely tasteless. Our goal should be that our conversation be seasoned just right. Lord, let my words and actions to others be always with grace, seasoned just right.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Let the healing begin. After King Solomon finished building the temple, God assured him that He had heard his prayer. God also gave further instructions - that His people must humble themselves, pray and seek God's presence and turn from their wicked ways. In doing so, God would forgive their sin and heal their land. While most of us would not classify anything we do as necessarily "wicked", we often fall short of what God instructed for "His" people. Being humble, we put others before our own selves. If we pray and seek God's face, we recognize that God knows what is best. If we have not heard from heaven in a while, perhaps we need to go back and seek God's face when we are praying. Lord, there are times when my prayers are selfish; help me to see the situation from your perspective so that healing can begin.
2 Chronicles 7:14
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and
seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and
I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Here's what to do. We may often joke about wishing that God would give us a sign, or tell us what to do in certain situations. Actually, scripture is full of these instructions. As we look back at how individuals handled things (Moses, Noah, David, Jonah, Sarah, Saul), we can learn from them and make good decisions. As Paul pleaded with those in Rome not to conform to the pattern of the world, he reminded them of the basics: be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. If we start with those basic instructions, how much better our witness would be to unbelievers. Lord, help me to start with the basics every morning.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
He knows better. Most of us have a prayer request that's been lingering for weeks, months, or even years. So if God is in the prayer-answering business, why doesn't He seem to answer this particular one? After a period of what seems to be unanswered prayers, we tend to think God doesn't care about this particular item on our list. Wrong! When we go to God in confidence, we are in essence relinquishing that person or issue to Him. He hears our requests, much like the parent of a young child who demands candy in place of something healthy. Now just because that child pleads for candy at mealtime, doesn't mean that's in his best interest. We may redirect that child to something that is better for him. We might give in, based on good behavior, if they still insist on having sweets, but we limit their exposure. If your prayers seem to go unanswered, perhaps we should remind ourselves that God knows the situation much better and will not do anything that could cause us harm. Lord, let me come into your presence with confidence, asking anything according to YOUR will, knowing that you WILL hear.
1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
Monday, May 1, 2017
Without faith. We all have faith in something. For some, it is faith in themselves, that they can work to be the very best person they know how to be. For others, they have faith that a career or financial security will bring them peace and happiness. Perhaps we put faith in our family, that they will come through when we are weak. I cannot imagine a life without faith in God. I say this, but sadly my actions don't always reflect this statement. We claim to have faith that God will take care of whatever situation, but we secretly want to tell Him how to make things better. Praying for years that God will heal someone does little good if the person is unwilling to change. There are times when I simply do not know how to pray. It almost seems that those are the times when I must truly reach out in faith to our Creator who knows much better than I. Lord, help me to have faith, not just in words, but true faith in my heart to know that you will take care of whatever situation concerns me right now.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must
believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.