Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Keeping score. If you've ever coached, had kids who played sports, or attended a game, you quickly realize the importance of keeping (or not keeping) score. I've heard parents complain that in some leagues, there is no scorekeeping. It is difficult to judge how one is performing if no one is keeping score. Can you imagine if God kept score of our activities? We tend to think he does keep track, or grades us based on our good works. But for us personally, we appreciate the fact that he does not keep records of our past sins once they've been forgiven. Wouldn't it be great if we could do the same with others - forgetting their past and only looking at the person's potential? Lord, help me not to keep score of other's iniquities, but pray for them to grow stronger in the Lord.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Hard workers. For years, I've sort of followed the idea of having a day of rest on Sunday (our current day for the Sabbath). Until recently, I never really thought about why we have a day of rest. When you are trying to get a family ready for church, fed, and then more church activities in the evening, it's not much of a restful day. Just think of how much a pastor and the other church workers have to do to prepare for Sunday services. Surely it is important for us to take one day (regardless of which day of the week) for rest from our work because from the very beginning, God took one day to rest from his busy schedule of creating the universe. Those who work so hard (even if it's not a paid job), that they don't have time to eat properly and allow their body to rest, are only making matters worse. Lord, help me to be a hard worker, but not too hard that I neglect my spiritual life, family and physical well-being.
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Give me understanding. We don't have to look very far to find something we simply don't understand. Most of the time it is not because we are uneducated, but because we simply cannot fathom the things others do, or why they do them. For the most part, we really do not know why, we just guess based on our own experiences and deal with it in our own way. Sometimes we wonder how God could have allowed bad things to happen (especially when it seems to happen to good people). We just don't understand why certain things happen. We probably never will. What helps us to get through is when we read scripture and then apply it to our own lives. I have forgotten far more things than I remember, but certain things have stuck with me through all those years. It could have been an "ah ha" moment, or perhaps a good or bad feeling to help give me empathy for others. What we choose to do with the lessons we learn from life and scripture will make a difference. Lord, help me to understand, teach me lessons so that I may be able to put into practice your love and mercy each day.
Give discernment to me, your servant, then I will understand your laws.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Challenging. Eugene Peterson's The Message says, "Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life" (James 1:12). There is no question that life can be challenging, sometimes more than others. I've heard many Christians say misquote scripture in saying that God does not give us more than we can handle. The quote is, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it" (HCSB). So it is temptation, not life's challenges, that we are given no more than we can bear without a means of escape. So how are we to manage the challenges we face? God gives us strength, courage, family and friends to help, but the main thing He wants from us during these trials is trust. Have you ever prayed earnestly for something and then felt completely at peace about the situation? That's it - the peace that comes from turning it completely over to God. If you are like me, you have a tendency to want to pick it back up, or "help" God. Don't do it! Listen to God's voice and direction. He may not always change the situation, but He sometimes makes it better by changing the hearts of those involved. Lord, when my challenges seem impossible, let me never forget that you are a God of "possibilities" and help me to persevere.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
A little further. At the start of this last bible study, we were challenged to get face down flat on the floor (if physically able) and pray before beginning our homework lesson. It felt a bit awkward at first, but over a few days, it showed me that our physical posture can have an impact on our prayer life. I remember as a child, kneeling around the furniture at my grandparents' house, saying individual prayers before bed. Of course I was just following the adult's behavior, but what a memory! When we really want to honor just how great and awesome God is, our prayer and posture should reflect as much. We should be humbled enough to fall face down before him, and close enough to let him know our desires, even if it doesn't match His will. When we go into a prayer expecting God to answer, we should trust Him enough to know that even if we don't see an immediate answer, that doesn't mean He hasn't already begun working on it. Lord, I praise you, not just when things go my way, but because you as Almighty God care about what happens to me.
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Ready to trust? Countless times I'm pretty sure I've disappointed God. Oh sure, my words say that I trust Him, but when push comes to shove, I fail miserably in the trust department. I can almost hear Him saying as he shakes his head, "Daughter, why do you not fully trust me in these circumstances?" Perhaps it's not that I don't trust God, but when things seem to get really messed up, I take matters into my own hands. Sometimes I reach out to others for guidance when I should be seeking His advice instead. When praying for something specific, I am finally learning how to step back and watch for God to begin working the answer. Sometimes the answer is almost immediate, which is easier for us to appreciate. Other times, the answers seem to take forever. I am okay with both of those, but when the situation seems to get worse, that's when I begin to doubt. Often times God shows me that my prayers were selfish (my idea of how God should handle the situation) and His ways are much better and more comprehensive than mine. Lord, help me to learn to trust you completely.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. "For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Spring cleaning. My daughter did not have but a few days to prepare for a move, so I'm sure they were not able to clean and purge as much as they would have preferred. We often simply move our stuff around and clean around it, as time and energy permit. When it comes to spring cleaning, however, that requires a more dedicated passion - to get down on our hands and knees, clear out and scrub the dirt away. Dr. David Jeremiah suggests that we use this same concept on our minds. Our brain, he says, "Isn't just the headquarters of our personalities, it's the battlefield for our souls." We've allowed so much in that at one time would have been considered filthy. These are not just movies or books with foul language or adult context, but also those negative and destructive thoughts which can creep in. Perhaps it is time to do some Spring cleaning and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Lord, let my words and thoughts today be good and acceptable in your eyes.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Green pastures. So often we repeat words to our favorite scripture verses but miss the message entirely. Oh, sure, we have them memorized because we learned a specific translation, but keep in mind that this was not the original - it is someone else's interpretation of what was written. This time of year, I don't know about you, but if I were to lay down in a green pasture, my eyes would begin to water and my nose would start to run. So what is God's message for us in Psalm 23? (Note: ever notice how "LORD" uses all caps? It comes from the Biblical Hebrew for the personal name of God, YHWH which did not use vowels.) God directs us to places that are conducive to our path to righteousness (think of a lush green meadow beside a quiet stream with beautiful blue skies and a few fluffy white clouds). God provides everything we need, but sometimes we must stop and rest a moment to appreciate those things. Lord, thank you for taking my breath away, in order for me to realize just how much you care.
The is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
A voice. If you watch crime shows, you will likely see an episode where the suspect talks about hearing voices that make them do bad things. The scripture in Revelation 14:2 is not about those voices, but those from heaven. As I sit here at my computer, it occurs to me just how loud our everyday lives have become. Appliances and gadgets make noises to which we have become accustomed - so much so, that when it is quiet, it is almost too quiet. I wonder if we've allowed our modern conveniences to drown out the voices of heaven, or even the voice of God himself? Does God speak to you in a soft whisper? Has he sent an angel to give you a message? Perhaps he must speak in thunderous tones to get our attention. If we are not careful, we can block out those voices and just think of what we may have missed. Lord, help me to hear and recognize your voice so that I may do.
And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Punishment. Someone in bible study commented that her daughter, who is away on a mission trip, has not spoken to them in a month, not because of the distance, but because of a comment the mom made regarding a political post on Facebook. My, how emotional we can get sometimes! We all like to think that our way is the right way and our thoughts are always the best, but that's simply not true. Like our bible heroes, we all have our faults. How often do we see someone punished and think to ourselves, "I'm glad to see them get their just reward!"? We must be careful not to get too boastful in our judgmental thoughts and words, as those can turn on us. Time and time again, scripture reminds us that God is the one in control and He decides the ultimate punishment. I'll admit that I've sometimes suggested what he should do, but fortunately He ignores my advice. Lord, I'll stick with you and let you be the one who decides the punishment.
With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Over-confident. Today's society teaches children that they can be anything they want to be. While that may sound good in theory, that is not exactly true. Many have overcome financial difficulties and other struggles to achieve their dreams, but for some, the reality is just not within their grasp. Therefore, we must also teach them how to handle those situations that are out of our control (relationships, illness, death, etc.). We must also be careful that we do not fall into this same trap in our spiritual lives. We can get so caught up thinking we've got this Christ-like follower thing down, that we forget to hold onto the hand that is keeping us safe. Lord, even when I feel as if I'm standing firm, let me always be aware that holding onto your hand is the safest place to be.
1 Corinthians 10:12
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
Monday, March 13, 2017
What a mess! In our bible study discussions last week, we talked about how our sufferings have affected us. We all agreed that some people automatically think bad things happen because of something we've done, or sin we've committed. When the disciples posed a similar question to Jesus, his response, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3). It would also make sense that just because someone does something bad, God does not automatically toss a lightning bolt down to zap that person. As I've thought about this discussion, and how we should not necessarily see suffering as something strictly negative, I swallowed hard, because I don't like to suffer! When I look back at how those sufferings changed me, I realized that perhaps something needed to change me and my perspective. All the silly mistakes I've made and how it seemed such a mess at the time, I came through it a better person, trusted God more and became more understanding when others go through similar times. Lord, even when things seem like such a mess, help me to remember that when I trust you to do so, you can make it into something far better than I ever imagined.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Be courageous! If someone has ever asked you to do something outside of your comfort zone, you can relate to the feelings of inadequacy and fear. For the most part, we can simply get out of doing those things that we are not comfortable doing. It is interesting to wonder how many of those opportunities were directed by God. If life were always easy, we would never fully understand the importance of faith, hope and mercy. Reliance on God when things seem difficult are key. Of course we would prefer to live in our own little bubble where nothing changes unless it is something we desire. Jesus came to live on earth as a man, to experience what being a human is really like. He faced many trials and it wasn't always easy for him, but he was obedient to the Father. Lord, when faced with something outside of my comfort zone, let me be courageous instead of shying away from the challenge.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Because of grace. There are some who believe that being good will get them into heaven. Before you discount that, however, think carefully about your own beliefs. How often do we do the right thing because we think that's what we should do? If we think of it like obeying the traffic laws when driving a vehicle, we can get so caught up in obeying the law (to the letter) that we become a danger to those around us. If the speed limit on the interstate is 70 mph and we dare not go any faster than that, to those other vehicles who are going faster, we have become an obstacle. Yes, that's what the law says, but I've also seen signs that tell drivers who are going the speed limit or less to keep in the right hand lane. We must remember that obeying religious laws (those outside God's Commandments) are simply guidelines. It's good to obey them, but obeying the law is not the point. Obeying the One who saved us should be our first priority, even if it doesn't quite fit into our tidy list of religious rules. Lord, thank you for saving me, not because of anything I did or didn't do, but because of grace.
2 Timothy 1:9
He has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Regarding others. It is much easier for us to regard others with humility when we're pretty sure they a type of expert in their own field; but what about those who seem a bit flustered or confused? Working in a customer service position is definitely not my cup of tea. There is a certain type of personality that is best suited for working with the public, or worse yet, the angry customer. How do you treat the cashier at the local dollar store, or fast food establishment? They are probably much younger than you and making little more than minimum wage. Don't they deserve to be treated with respect? As a reminder, God loves each one of us - yep, even THAT person. Lord, help me to treat others with humility and respect.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Politically incorrect. Children's programs have changed a great deal since Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner and other cartoons I watched growing up. We have drifted away from anything violent in an attempt to make this next generation more living and kind. It doesn't take long for a once favorite nursery rhyme (Goldilocks or Little Red Riding Hood) to become frightening to a toddler and therefore politically incorrect. Even children's bible stories are filled with scary events (Jonah gets swallowed by a whale, David kills Goliath) that in today's culture have become politically incorrect. I'm not sure how these stories will evolve in our society, but I do know that they are included in scripture for a reason. Perhaps as adults we should realize that these are not just children's stories, but historical events meant to help us as we face the giants in our own lives. Lord, let me never be so politically correct that I miss the point of the story.
1 Samuel 17:45
Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Long ago. If you ever lost a list and then found it again much later, don't you find it interesting what was most important at the time? We might get a chuckle in wondering why in the world that seemed so critical at that point in time. Whether we write them down, enter them into our electronic devices or simply keep them in our minds, we all make lists and plans. If it is convenient or crucial, we take care of those things that absolutely must happen. The other things often get pushed off until later or until they are off our radar altogether. Aren't you glad God doesn't work that way? God's plans were not just conceived while reading a book, watching a commercial or after dreaming about them at night. His plans for us are much more thoughtful and perfect. Since that is the case, it only makes sense that we align our own priorities with his. Lord, you are my God, you have been faithful in doing such wonderful things - things planned long ago.
 , you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.
Friday, March 3, 2017
God's ways. Every so often when my heart desires revenge for someone who has done something wrong or evil (in my opinion), it's a good reminder of why I'm not in charge of sentencing. If it were left up to me, some would have been struck by a bolt of lightning or carried away by a giant bird to a far off land. As silly as that may seem, we don't always see things from God's perspective. We are not perfect and we must remember that no one else is either. God gave us a second (third, fourth, fifth...) chance, and so should we do the same. It's also much easier for us to see the faults and misguided steps of others, but not as easy to recognize when we begin to stumble. Perhaps it's not that we are blinded, but choose to ignore the danger signs. We have our own ideas of how things "should" work, but when our path becomes hindered, our fall is not necessarily graceful. Rather than looking at the path, or at other distractions, we should always look to God, for His ways are perfect. Lord, whenever I begin to stumble, help me to look up so you can show me the way.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the . “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Following closely. Children often follow so closely to a parent or other caregiver that when the adult stops, it nearly knocks the child down. During a certain period, the child may even grasp on so tightly, as if they are hanging on for dear life. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we clung onto God so tightly that we could feel every move He takes? Imagine how tightly our grip might be, hanging on for dear life with each unexpected turn. We tend to think we know the path we are on, and often get comfortable while cruising along at a snail's pace. Job knew firsthand that God's way is not always the easiest path, nor the most direct and expected route. Lord, help me to follow you so closely that I never veer off the path you have set for me.
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Who but God? It's not always easy to recognize, but quite often we are too close to the situation to see or understand clearly. When my children were little (and I'm sure even to this day as adults), they knew exactly how to push my buttons. They knew what would stir up the anger within, and also how to melt away any form of bitterness that would end usually in tears and a big hug. It doesn't take long for any of us to figure out how to manipulate the system to our advantage. We generally see things as we want to see them. If we consistently talk about the negatives, perhaps we are focusing too much on the adverse (maybe inadvertently). Prostrate on the floor, I opened my eyes to see nothing but a blurry fuzz and I was quickly reminded that we are often too close to see God's bigger picture. Lord, help me remember that when things look fuzzy, You are my strength and my guide.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.