God’s Words of Comfort in Times of Fear – January 3, 2016

I wrote a little bit the other day about the news of my pregnancy that we found out right before New Year’s Eve, and about living by faith in this New Year.  I write this as much for me as for my readers, and hope that these words can offer encouragement to the both of us.

I’ve had a lot of fear and anxiety the past few days, as I await speaking with my doctor’s office tomorrow to schedule my first prenatal appointment, as well as some scary symptoms that I have experienced off and on that have at times made me wonder if everything is okay.  Baby seems fine for now, but I’ve been doing a lot of praying and trying to keep God’s Word in my mind as I hope for the best, but try  to mentally prepare for the “what if” of something going wrong.  Because of the miscarriage that we suffered last August, it’s an intensely joyful yet angst-filled pregnancy this time around.

I’m studying some Bible verses on fear, and I’m finding comfort in knowing and remembering that no matter what, His strength is there, and that I am not walking alone.  Let’s take a look at some of the ones I’ve found so far:

Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (NKJV).” – This one is a great encouragement because again, it lets me know that I’m not walking through the valley alone.  Our Shepherd watches over us with great care and leads us down the right path.

Psalm 115:11 “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.” – Because of who God is, I can trust Him in the outcome.  He is my help and my shield.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – Here Jesus is talking to the disciples to let them know that it’s getting close to time for Him to be crucified and resurrected.  He is letting them know that though He is going away shortly to prepare a place for His people in Heaven, He is leaving with them His peace.  This encourages me today because I know that I can call on Him and receive His peace also.

Psalm 56:3 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” -This verse reminds me again of the word trust.  I can trust that God is good and that He knows best.

Psalm 112 begins with the verse, “Praise the Lord!  Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.”  Then it goes on to say in verse 7, “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” – This tells me that I don’t have to be afraid of bad news because I can still trust that the Lord is good.

Zephaniah 3:17 “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.” – This shows the loving character of God, our Heavenly Father, and reminds me of His tender mercy, and also of the way in which He has already saved me through the cross.

Are all of these verses easier said than done?  Absolutely, as least for me they are.  But it’s a great comfort to know that through His Word, He has given us many reassurances that He is there, shepherding His flock and walking us through whatever life may throw at us.

Yes, I am going to keep on praying for my child, and having faith that everything will be all right, but I will commit to trust in Him no matter what because I can trust that He is good.  I will no doubt have more times of anxiety the further along I get, but I can have faith in a God who sees me, knows me, loves me and cares about the things and the people in my life.  After all, if my precious child means so much to my husband and I, how much more does he/she mean to the Creator?

I hope this has perhaps brought a little encouragement to you today, as writing this down did for me.  We serve a mighty God who loved us so much His own Son came down to endure the agony of the cross so that He could bring His children home.  And He’ll walk with you and me every step of the way along this rough and bumpy road called life.

“Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are always there, in good times and in bad.  Please forgive me when I fail to trust You.  Help me to have faith that You are good even in difficult circumstances.  Be with this pregnancy, Lord, for You know what’s best.  I pray that if it is possible, our baby would be born healthy with no complications.  Please draw me closer to You during this time, and for anyone reading this, please draw them closer to You also.  Ease our fears, Lord, and reassure us through Y0ur Word and Your Holy Spirit that You are here right beside us, going before us, in whatever we are walking through.  I pray that this situation in my life will glorify You, Father, and I thank You for Your overwhelming love and grace that You’ve already given me time and time again.  Help us to be filled with Your perfect love that casts out fear, Father.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Living by Faith in the New Year – December 31, 2015

In reading from Hebrews today, I read some words that spoke deeply to my heart.  It’s wonderful how God sometimes speaks through His Word the exact message we need to hear – of comfort, encouragement and just the motivation to keep on keeping on.

Hebrews 2:10-18 says, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:

I will declare Your name to My brethren;  In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’

And again:

I will put My trust in Him.’

And again:

‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (NKJV).”

These verses tell us that we can trust Him because He is faithful, and because He has conquered death, sin and temptation.  He’s been in our shoes, and He knows what it’s like to live here on Earth; yes, in Him is our victory.  So, I ask myself, “Why are there times when I’m still so afraid to trust?” and, “When trusting is hard, will I do it anyway?”

The reason these words speak to me today so poignantly is that my husband and I got some great news yesterday:  We are going to have another baby!  I feel a mixture of joy and outright fear, because we had a miscarriage in mid-August of this year during the 5th week of pregnancy.

So, when I read the words that the Lord spoke through the prophets, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.  I will put my trust in Him.  Here am I and the children whom God has given Me,” I felt the challenge to make this my prayer for the New Year.

Trusting is very hard sometimes, and especially when the outcome is not what we’d like.  As I read the words above, I asked myself, “Do I really trust God with my life and the lives of my children?  I say I do, but do I really?”  I think sometimes I’m afraid to trust because the devil wants to remind me of everything that could go wrong now or in the future.  Yet, I know, in my heart of hearts and through His Word, that He has our best interests at heart.  He has shown me numerous times in both my life and the lives of my children that He is faithful beyond anything I can imagine.

At times when I’ve read in the Old Testament how the Israelites kept wandering from God after He proved Himself faithful over and over – He parted the Red Sea and made water come out of a rock for crying out loud! – I’ve shaken my head in disbelief that they could forget how God had provided.  Yet, I laugh as I write this because don’t we do the same thing?  I know I do.  No sooner does God get me out of one jam, and then something happens that wasn’t what I wanted or how I planned, and I’m wondering if God forgot about me or I’m shaking my fist at Him.

I pray in the coming year that God would remind me (and all of us) of the ways in which He’s blessed us, and that we would cling to His Word of faithfulness, so that when the storms of life come, we will put our hope and trust in a God that we know to be good, loving, merciful and faithful.  One who suffered so that we could have life abundantly – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).”

“Father, I thank You for Your faithfulness, Your love and Your mercy.  Thank You for being with me every step of the way this year, and help me to put my faith in You the way that Jesus did in His example, both through His Words and in His actions.  I pray that I will trust You with all of my heart, with my life and my family, and know that You are good, and will never leave my side.  Please bring to mind all of the times in which You’ve been faithful, both to us and to the people in the Bible, and throughout history, Father.  Grant us an abundance of faith, and peace that passes all understanding, that we may shine Your light into the lives of others.  I pray that in all things we might glorify You.  Thank You for Your Hope and Your salvation and help us to remember that victory is already ours through Jesus.  May we dedicate 2016 to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

A Father’s Delight – December 26, 2015

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  It’s been a busy week around here, as our youngest son’s 10th birthday was three days before Christmas and I still hadn’t finished my shopping yet that day, so I was among the last-minute people braving the holiday crowds in the stores and parking lots.

All of the hustle and bustle was totally worth it, though.  Like the kids, I was looking forward to time for everyone to open presents.  I wanted to see the smiles on their faces and hear the squeals of delight as they got at least some of the things that were on their Christmas wish lists.

Do you think God does the same when He blesses us with something special?  I wonder if He watches in delight as we savor a special gift, or an opportunity that we’ve prayed for, like a pregnancy test that has two lines, or an announcement of a long-awaited job opportunity, or the moment you meet the person who will be your spouse.  I bet He’s smiling when we admire a beautiful sunset or when our eyes (especially our kids’) light up in the winter after we wake up to a snow-covered yard.  And I bet He cherishes those moments when we bow our heads or lift up our hands in prayer and say, “Thank You, Father,” and give Him a heavenly hug.

1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (NKJV).”

When we look at all of the beauty of nature, or into the face of a newborn child, His Love is written all over them.  His love was also written all over a blood-stained cross – and His love was the Hope that appeared to the disciples a few days later when they thought that Hope was lost.

After Jesus had been buried for three days, Mary Magdalene and another disciple named Mary (possibly Mary of Bethany) came to see the tomb, and were surprised to see an angel.  “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.  Behold, I have told you.’

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.  And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’  So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him (Matthew 28:5-9).”

Can you imagine the look of delight on His face as He shouted, “Rejoice!” and surprised them with His presence?  He had come to announce the greatest News yet:  that victory had been won.  And He gave us the greatest Gift of all: salvation.  We have good reason to rejoice, and Jesus told the disciples that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).”  He loves us so much that when we finally come “home” and ask Jesus into our hearts, He has a big celebration over each one of us!

A book by a Christian author once (can’t remember the author or title) stated that through His death and resurrection, not only did Jesus rescue us, but He also played the biggest practical joke in history on Satan!   It’s true if you think about it.   Just as the devil thought he’d won, Jesus got up and walked right out of that grave, even leaving the linen handkerchief that had been around His head folded neatly off to the side (John 20:7).

We can rejoice not only in knowing that victory is ours if we have placed our faith in Jesus, but that there are even greater things to come.  Jesus told the disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:3).”  He’s with us today, and we’ll physically be with Him in Heaven one day.  I can’t wait to see what great things He has prepared for us up there!

As we get ready to go to bed tonight, I hope we’ll pause and think of some of the greatest gifts/blessings that we’ve been given this year, and tell our Heavenly Father “Thank You,” and “I love You.”  I believe that will bring a big smile to His face, and to ours too!

“Father, I thank You so much for so many ways in which You’ve blessed me, big and small.  I thank You for Christmas, and for Jesus and His great Gift of hope and salvation, and for the victory that has permanently been won over sin and evil.  Please help us to keep the joy and wonder of Christmas in our hearts all year long, and to share that joy and wonder with others, Lord.  I pray that our faces will light up when we think of You and how good You are, and that we will smile more each day as we grow closer to You through Your Word, Father, and it becomes more and more real in our lives.  I thank You for grace, and for a brand new day each morning.  Help me to appreciate and make the most of the gifts that You’ve given me, and to offer You praise and glory.  Let me turn my blessings into praise to You, my King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Can Others See Christ in Us? – December 20, 2015

I’ve heard and read some really good stories and sermons lately that are centered around the meaning of Christmas.  Some have described what things must have been like for Mary and Joseph as they knelt in the smelly stable and beheld the infant Jesus that starry night.  Others are wonderful reminders that the Holy Night at Bethlehem was only the beginning of what would be the greatest Hope of all for mankind – the Savior who was ultimately born to go to the cross, and then to rise from the dead in victory over all that separated us from God, to “…proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19 NKJV).”

I think about the wonder and excitement of that night, and of the Hope in that Message, and yet I’m also convicted.  Sometimes I wonder to myself, “How well am I doing at showing others the love of Christ?  Does my life make others want to know Him more?”  Sadly, often the answer is no.  See, I know that it’s nothing I did or could do that saved me, but His Gift is so wonderful, and His love so amazing, that it should show all over my face, in my words, in my actions, and permeate my life.  So, when I do things like snap at my husband, or have a hard time forgiving someone, or want to shake my fist at that person who cut me off in rush hour traffic, when I compare them to the Christmas message, I fall far, far short.  In fact, we all do.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But then in the next verse it says, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).”  That means the gift is free.  This passage goes on to talk about how we are saved through faith, that He has forgiven our sins “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (v 26).”

What do we do once we have asked Christ into our hearts, thereby receiving this free gift?  What does the Word say about how to follow Him?

Titus 3:3-8 says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men.”

That last part tells us that because we have believed (not to be saved, but as a result of Jesus’ gift), we should be “careful to maintain good works.”  We should do this because it is “good and profitable” for others. God can use us to lead others to Him and be a demonstration of His kindness and love. Conversely, the enemy can use our example to push people away if we are not walking the talk.

Reading these words from the book of Titus this evening was a challenge to me – and perhaps it will be to you too, to think about ways that we can be a better demonstration of our faith in Jesus to those who may be outsiders looking in.  Maybe someone is undecided as to what to think about Christ, but because they see Him in you or me, they might be encouraged to take the step of asking Him into their heart and life also.

The good thing is, when we mess up and we fall short (which we do daily), He gives us grace and forgiveness, and he gives us His Spirit and His Word to help guide the way.  We’re never alone in any decisions we have to make, or any obstacles or crises we face.

Even the Apostle Paul testified to the fact that he struggled with not acting like a Christian at times.  He said, “…For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do (Romans 7:15).”  He then goes on to say, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! (vv 24-25).”

So, we will never be perfect this side of Heaven, sadly, but if we have Christ in our hearts, we have been redeemed and forgiven.  Let’s look at one way today that we can be a demonstration of His love to someone else.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:15).”

Lord, I thank You for the message that I read from Your Word today.  I am humbled and convicted.  Sometimes it’s so hard for me to do what You would desire for me to do, and please forgive me where I fall short, Father.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is indeed weak.  However, I know You have promised that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Please help me to lean on You and to be the demonstration of Your love and light in this world that You would have me to be.  I pray for those fellow believers who are reading this, Lord, that they may draw strength and encouragement from You as well, and that this message from Titus may have encouraged and motivated them as it did me.  I pray for those who haven’t yet made the decision to accept You into their hearts, Lord.  I pray that today would be the day.  If there is anything You would have us do today that could make a difference in someone’s life and will help lead them to You, please motivate us and move us to do so, Father.  I pray that we may bring You glory and honor in all we do.  In Christ’s most precious name I pray, Amen.

Faithfully Serving – December 19, 2015

Sometimes I wish I had a maid…and a chauffeur, especially now that I have two teenagers…and when my kids were younger it would’ve been nice to have a nanny to change diapers and clean up the kids’ messes.

When we think about what it means to be extravagantly wealthy, often we think of having bodyguards, a butler and a maid.  We dream of getting rich and being waited on hand and foot, and not having to get our proverbial hands dirty with the menial things.  No, I know that when I get rich (ha!), I’m going to travel and enjoy life and not have to worry about bills or measly things like cleaning the toilet or doing laundry.  No more Hamburger Helper for me!

I say this in jest, of course, as the chances of that are actually pretty miniscule.  But I guess it all depends on how one defines wealth.

In the book of Nehemiah, the king gave Nehemiah permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s walls after they had been destroyed.  He led a team of people in the effort to reconstruct.  Chapter 3 lists the names of the people involved in this repair effort, including the names of some of the daughters and sons of those involved, who also joined in the construction.  Since these are included in the Bible, I figure these efforts must have been important to God.  Nothing that we do for Him goes unnoticed.

In verse 5, however, it says, “Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.”  This is the only place in this chapter where it lists those who did not join in the effort.  It’s also of note that these men were nobles, higher-ups perhaps, who seemingly did not want to do the dirty work.

When we picture nobles and kings, we think of people being served.  That’s why the Kingdom Jesus described was such a foreign idea to people at that time, and even goes against our human tendencies and traditions today.

In Matthew 20, the Word says, “But Jesus called them over to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (vv 25-28 NKJV).”

Two of the disciples’ mother had just come to Jesus and asked that her sons be granted the privilege of sitting on either side of Jesus in the Heavenly Kingdom.  They misunderstood, still thinking of a kingdom the way we do, that it was about nobility, pomp and circumstance.  Yet, Jesus showed them and us a better way, and a better kingdom – one that would involve much sacrifice and service, but one that was immensely more rewarding.

In John, Chapter 13, when Jesus was washing Peter’s feet, Peter answered Him and said, “You shall never wash my feet! (v 8).

Then it says, “Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’  Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’

Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’  For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (vv 9-17).”

In essence, He is saying to the disciples that if they truly want to be great, they should serve one another.  By extension, He is saying the same thing to us today.  He came to be an example of the kind of servant leaders we should aspire to be.

I admit, it’s a hard concept for me to apply a lot of the time.  My natural desire is to want to be first in line, get ahead in traffic and in the workplace, and just generally get my way first, before I think about anyone else.  I think it’s just our human nature.  But Jesus admonished us to love other and put others first by serving them.  This is one way that we can bring His light into our dark world.

Let’s take a look at what it means to truly be rich.  Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”  Further on in this chapter, it says in verse 7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Jesus gave us the greatest Gift of all:  Himself.  He has promised to those who believe that we have been redeemed, forgiven, blessed with every spiritual blessing because of the riches of His grace.  We can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but He loves us so much He wants to come and make His home in our hearts.  If you haven’t yet received this free gift, I would encourage you to talk to Him in prayer and ask Him to come into your heart and be Lord of your life.  He is waiting right there where you are with arms wide open.

Let’s think today of how we can serve someone close to us, or perhaps even a stranger, and show them a little of God’s love, as it draws closer to the Christmas holiday.  Then, let us keep Jesus’ example in mind all year long, as we go forward with the new year and think of new and creative ways that we can be of service.

Like the servant in Matthew 25, at the end of my life I want to hear God say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of our Lord (v 23).”

“Father, I thank You for Jesus’ example of service and love.  Let us today give all of the praise and honor to our King of Kings, who alone is worthy.  Please help us today to be a blessing to someone by serving them, and remind us during the holidays and all year long of ways that we can continue being of service.  I pray that You would raise us up as godly leaders in our homes, our families, our churches, our schools and our world to bring Your light to those that are in need of hope.  Show us how we can best honor You in the areas of service that You have for us.  Remind us each day how truly rich and blessed we are, perhaps not with money, but with so much more than just the material.  We have faith, hope, love, forgiveness and a Savior who never leaves our side.  I thank You once again for Your grace.  Let my life bring You honor.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Blessings Multiplied -December 18, 2015

Several stories I’ve read in the Bible talk of how things, when placed in the hands of God, can be multiplied.  The first example that comes to mind is where Jesus fed the five thousand with just five loaves of bread and two fish that were given to him by His disciples (Matthew 14:13-21).

I was reading today in the book of 2 Kings about the prophets Elijah and Elisha.  These two prophets foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah in many ways.  They were blessed with the Holy Spirit and were able to perform miracles to demonstrate the power of God.  Later, in the New Testament, God Himself would come down in the flesh and perform and preach a message of hope and salvation to the world – in fact, He would be the Message we all need to hear, and the Miracle the world was waiting for.

2 Kings 4:42-44 says, “Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread, and newly ripened grain in his knapsack.  And he said, “Give it to the people, that they may eat.”  But his servant said, “What?  Shall I set this before one hundred men?”  He said again, “Give it to the people, that they may eat;  for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’  So he set it before them; and they ate and had some left over, according to the Word of the Lord (NKJV).”

The man wondered how twenty loaves of bread were going to be enough to feed one hundred people, just as the disciples didn’t think that the five loaves and two fish would be enough to feed the five thousand either.  But they forgot that God is a God of miracles.  God told Elisha to reassure the man that He would provide enough for the people to eat, and even have some left over.  Matthew 14:20 says that after Jesus fed the 5,000, “they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained.”

When I was reading about this, I got to thinking – how often do we say, “God, all I have is a measly amount of money.  Shoot, I even live paycheck to paycheck.  How can my tiny offering really help anybody?” or, “Lord, I don’t feel like I have what it takes to get involved in ministry.  I’m not good at singing, I’m not a preacher, and I’m very shy.  How could You possibly use someone like me?”

I know I’ve said to myself, “How can God use a socially-awkward, self-proclaimed introvert and ex-drunk like me?”  But I forget that He can take even our measly offering and multiply it over and over.  Maybe you just have 30 minutes a week, or $10, or a beat-up car.  Did you know He can take that and use it for His glory, no matter how small or insignificant you think it is?

I’ve also had times where I’ve said to myself (and my husband), “There seems like no way we’re going to pay all of the bills on this,” and yet at those times, often God has stepped in and made a way where there seemed to be no way.  This month seemed to be like that for us.  My husband works as an electrician, and he came up short the week before last because they were waiting on a builder to finish a house. Consequently, he was short on his check last week for the couple of days that they couldn’t work.

This week, I’ve had the opportunity to work a couple of days part-time at my old job.  I’m not a regular employee, but they’ve graciously allowed me to fill in whenever someone goes on vacation or is sick, etc.  Sometimes I go months without getting an opportunity like this, depending on how busy or slow they are.  The hours are long, but I am so thankful that God has given me the opportunity.  Times like this remind me that He is always faithful, just like His Word says, and that He cares about us and our bills and our lives, even to the smallest detail.

Jesus also encourages us to give of what we have to help others as well.  Like 7:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  God can multiply our blessings to others in both our lives and theirs.  And it’s such a joy to know when God has used you to make a difference, even in the smallest way.

We can be encouraged to know that in the hands of our Lord, the smallest offering can become the biggest blessing.  We don’t have to be afraid to offer our time, money, talents, possessions, words, deeds or prayers.  All that we have is given by God anyway, and really belongs to Him.  We can trust Him with all things because He is a loving Father.

“Lord, I thank You for all that You have provided, and continue to provide in my life.  Help me to use all that You have given me for Your glory.  Let us offer our lives, time and all that we have to You, to place them in Your hands to be multiplied, knowing that the very same God who fed the five thousand and healed the blind can make much out of little.  Help us to make much of You, Lord, for You are holy.  I pray that when blessings come, we would remember where they came from, and be reminded of how much You love us.  Let us boldly come to You with all of our needs, knowing that You are faithful to take care of us, and care about all of our concerns, no matter how small.  Thank You for being such a loving Father.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

Daring to Ask for Help – December 7, 2015

It’s easy to feel weighed down by things that are outside of our control, which if you think about it, are, in the words of some really wise people I know in recovery, “everything beyond the tip of your nose.”

Of course, being the control freak that I am sometimes, this is not always easy to accept.  I want to put people that are hurting other people in their place and tell them to act right, or I want to fix my mom’s mental illness and make it all better, or I want to teach those drivers in rush hour traffic how to use their turn signals.  Or I want to do a better job of controlling my mouth and my thinking.  I realize I’m not even good at having self-control myself sometimes, and Lord knows I need a lot of fixing, so it’s pointless for me to think that I am qualified to fix anyone else.

So, I need help.  We need help.  The whole world needs help.  And this is where I’m reminded that the help is always there, whenever I ask.

Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11 NKJV).”

It’s encouraging to know that God is always there when I have a problem, or when I’m tired, or lonely, or at a loss for what to do in a situation, or when I’m worried about something.  I can also tell Him my biggest dreams and ask Him to help make them a reality.  If it’s something that He knows is going to be good for me, I believe He is a loving Father who wants to give me the desires of my heart.

Psalm 37 says “Trust in the Lord, and do good.  Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.  Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (vv 3-4).”

Now I’m not saying that this is espousing a “name it and claim it” theology, where God is like a magic genie giving us our every want.  But I believe it says that if we seek His will first, we can bring Him the desires of our hearts and every concern we have, and trust that He will bring about the best for our lives.

Sometimes He might even change the desires of my heart or help me to realign my priorities in line with what He wants for me instead of what I think is best.  When I think back to my teenage years when my first breakup seemed like the end of the world, and when not having a car or a driver’s license and having to *gasp* ride the bus to school seemed like the most depressing thing ever, I can laugh because I can see that I totally had no clue!

Because He’s a good Father, I know that His answer to my prayer is not always going to be yes.  It might be no, or it might be “wait.”  Much like a little kid, it’s hard for me when I don’t get my way.  But let me tell you, there are times I can thank Him now many times over that He didn’t give me what I thought I wanted at the time, particularly where dating and marriage were concerned!  My younger self was not so great at relationships, and my older self still has a lot to learn, so I’m thankful He brought me a husband who’s had the patience of Job with me, and that we’ve been able to grow up and learn together (even if it has at times involved weeping and gnashing of teeth!).

In the book of Jeremiah, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel who had been taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.  He tells them that He would ultimately deliver them from captivity.  It says, “For thus says the Lord:  After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all Your heart (Jeremiah 29:10-13).”

Whenever I feel that things are out of my control, and even though there are things within my control (i.e. my thoughts and words) that I need to work on, it’s comforting to know that just as He was there for His people back in those days, He will be there for me, and for you.  Not only that, but that He loves us and wants to give us a future and a hope.  The biggest hope that he’s given us is Jesus Himself.  Christmas is perhaps the time of the year that we are most reminded of that Hope, but the truth is that He’s here with us every day.  And He tells us to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking, because He wants to be there for us and because He loves us, enough to step down from His heavenly home, endure this world, the cold stable, the cross and all, and give up His earthly life so that we could have forgiveness of our sins and abundant life.

We can take those things over which we feel powerless to a loving Father and know that He is able to help.  Who can fix something best?  The One who made it.

“Father, I thank You that You are my ever-present help.  Please help me to seek You when I don’t know what to do, and to seek You first before I go off and try to fix things on my own.  Help us to give You our hopes, dreams, fears, worries, the whole nine yards, Lord, knowing that You know us even better than we know us, for You are our creator.  I thank You that because of Jesus, we can call you Abba Father.  Help us to commit our lives to You, and may we all know the Hope that we have in Jesus’ great gift of salvation, and that through Him we know how good You are and how much You love us.  Help us to remember this today and every day.  Strengthen our faith, Lord, and help us to walk without fear of what we can’t control.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

God, Our Faithful Provider – December 5, 2015

Have you ever had someone do something nice for you for no reason?  I can think of several examples in my life where people have done stuff like that for me, and I’m immensely thankful.  I’ll admit, one of the problems that I struggle with, that I have to pray about, is self-sufficiency and pride.  It’s hard sometimes asking for help.

The good part?  When Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray in Matthew chapter 6, He tells them they don’t have to use vain repetitions or invoke a special “mantra” in order to be heard by God, as legalism and religious rituals prevailed in that day.  No, He says in verse 8, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

When I am struggling with something, or am facing a financial, spiritual or physical need in my life, it is comforting to know that God already knows what I need.

A few years ago, I was on the highway and the transmission on my car went kaput.  My husband and I were divorced at that time, and I couldn’t afford a car payment, nor did I have much money in savings.  (We have a cool story of how God ultimately brought us back together after two years of  the anguish and pain of that divorce, but I’ll save that for another time.)

A business associate asked if I could meet over dinner to discuss some details of his program, which is a government-funded program that provides services to citizens in need.  I almost didn’t go, because I normally preferred to meet for lunch during business hours, but I prayed about it beforehand and felt peace about going.

During the conversation about the program, this gentleman brought up the rental truck that I was driving.  He said something along the lines of, “That’s a cool-looking truck.  Is that new?”  I said no, that I had gotten stranded on the highway and was driving a rental to get me back and forth to work for a few days, while searching Craigslist and those “zero-money down” used car lots for something cheap that would get me from point A to point B.

He said, “I have a car that I will sell you for $100.  It may last a month, or it may last a week, since it has a pretty bad oil leak, but you are welcome to use it.  My wife wants to get rid of the thing because it leaks oil all over our driveway.”

I asked if it was currently running.  He said that it did run, but needed about a quart to two quarts of oil added to it roughly every 5-7 days in order to keep it filled.  He assured me that it would cost more to fix the leak than the car was worth, as it was a little ’88 Subaru GL station wagon.

But for $100??  I told him it was sold!  My husband and I were on speaking terms at that time, and after he followed me to go return the rental, he agreed to drive me to go pick up the car, and look at it to make sure that it would get me back home.  Ultimately, the man just decided to give me the car, as he said he felt bad about taking money for it since he wasn’t sure if it was going to break down in a week’s time.  That car ran for 18 months before it finally gave out.

All my worrying about how I was going to get the money for a car, and this man and his wife gave me one for free!  It really made Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 hit home in my life, though He still has to remind me daily not to worry.  I’m a slow learner.

He tells us, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:25-27 NKJV).

What really got me thinking about this today was in reading Ephesians 4:25-32, where Paul is reminding believers of principles that God wants us as Christians to live by once we are saved.  What caught my attention was where he says in verse 28, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”

Yesterday, I wrote about trying to discern God’s purpose for my life career-wise, and about the lofty goals I had before life threw me a curve ball earlier this year.  But what I got from this verse is that my work is not even so much about me, but so I can have something to give to those in need, just as that man did for me with the car.

I believe He blesses us 1) because He’s a good father and He loves us 2) so that we can be a blessing to others, and 3) So that others might know Him as a result of His power in our lives and theirs.

May we be His hands and feet today and look for ways in which we can bless someone, remembering the many times that He has used others to bless us.

“Father, I thank You so much for Your blessings.  Help me not to take the things and the people in my life for granted today, Lord, but help me to love others as You love me.  Help us to look for ways in which we can be a blessing to others, and to show them Your love and tell them of Your grace and provision in our lives.  You are faithful, and You alone are worthy of praise.  Help us to put our trust in You, Lord, and to know that You care about our every need, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us.  Help us to trust You with those needs, and to rest secure knowing that just as You clothe the lilies and feed the birds, You are always faithful to take care of us too.  I love You, Father and I thank You for Your provision.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

Work in Progress – December 4, 2015

I like what Joyce Meyer says frequently, in her talks and in her writing.  She says, “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”  That about sums up my thinking today.

Do you ever feel woefully inadequate to do what you feel like God is leading you to do?  Or do you wonder what it is exactly that He is leading you to do?  If so, you’re not alone.  With me, it’s a little of both.

Sometimes when I write, I don’t know exactly what I’m gonna say, or I look over what I’ve just written and I think, “Can anyone make sense of that?”  Yet, writing is something I really enjoy, and I especially enjoy sharing my studies of the Bible and what I’m learning as I read.  I’m also working on a fiction novel, which has been decidedly slow-going.

Another quandary I find myself in is wondering exactly what it is I’m supposed to do as in career-wise.  I graduated back in May with my MBA, and when I started school originally, had all of these big plans about how I was going to try and get a high-paying job that would help us get the house paid off quickly and save up money so that we wouldn’t have to worry about finances anymore.

I resigned my full time job last November so that I could focus more on my school work, as a lot of it was very time-consuming, and I was getting close to the end, where I was going to have to write a lengthy report for my capstone class.  Not to mention, the classes on math and finance were challenging to this English major, to say the least.

Then, in December of last year, and for the next several months, we went through a major crisis with our teenage daughter.  She has asked me not to go into detail out of respect for her privacy, but I’ll just say she struggled with depression and had a really rough time, and really needed my care and attention, so it ended up being a blessing in disguise that I quit my job at the time that I did, even though it ended up being for a different reason that what I thought it was going to be.

Throughout that time, my husband and I were driven to our knees in search of answers, and had to lean heavily on the Lord to get us through.  I went through a period of asking God, “Why?” and at the same time, begging Him to please help my little girl.  It’s a strange thing, being powerless.  When you get to the absolute end of anything you can do, you get your loved one (or yourself) all of the help that you can, and then from there on out it is between them and God.

And God is faithful.  My daughter received inpatient help for her depression a few times, and during her last stay, she met a tech there who encouraged her from the Word of God, and even bought her a Bible with her name on it.  The tech told her that though it was against policy for her to distribute Bibles to the patients, she felt like it was something that the Lord had laid on her heart to do for these kids, and that she was willing to risk losing her job if found out.  As far as I know, that lady is still employed there, and I am so very thankful that God put that angel in our daughter’s path.  You see, my daughter was a Christian, but was, much like I’ve been at the lowest points of my life, really discouraged and in need of being reminded that God was still there, that He hadn’t left her alone.

And He was reminding her of exactly the same thing that Paul was speaking to the believers about in Philippians chapter 1.

So, when I was reading from this book today, and thinking of the uncertainty of my future career, and how far I still have to go before I’m anything like Joyce, for example, I read where the apostle Paul wrote in Chapter 1, verse 6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  No matter where I falter, or am unsure, or feel that I lack the resources, it says He who has begun a good work in me (and in you) will complete it.  It says it won’t get done by my (or your) strength, but through His.

Because of this, I don’t have to worry about knowing exactly what I’m to do next month or next year, but just to follow where He leads.  I’m His work in progress.

Further on in the chapter, Paul writes, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (vv 12-14 NKJV).”

Paul saw the bigger picture.  Yes, he had been imprisoned, but many saw the power of God working in Paul’s situation, and this gave the believers of that day more courage to be outspoken for Christ.

Sometimes, I can look back on things that happened in my life, and I can see God’s hand in the situation.  I can see how God was there for me and for our daughter earlier this year.  I also see that though I am now only working part time and am nowhere close to the big salary that I had dreamed of when I started school, God has given me this gift of time.  Time for me to take a break from the rat race, and time to think about what’s really important in my life.

Paul didn’t know how things were going to turn out for him either.  But he was able to say, even as he sat imprisoned, and even with the possibility that he could lose his life, “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (vv 19-21).”

No matter where you or I are in life, God has given us through His Word, the great hope of Jesus Christ.  He promises that the good work He begins in us, He will continue until the day He calls us home.  He gives us the hope that no matter our situation, things are going to turn out all right in the end.  And, like Joyce, we can thank Him that even though we haven’t arrived yet by any means, we can look back with deep gratitude at the things that He has brought us through so far.

“Father, I thank You for Your provision in our lives.  Lord, I pray that I would give You the glory in all that I do, and that I would seek Your will day by day.  Take our feeble human efforts and use them for Your glory and Your praise.  Help us to look for ways in which we can encourage one another today.  I thank You for the testimonies of other believers, including the words and the testimony of the apostle Paul, and of course, for Your life and Your example.  I pray that we as believers would depend on You, knowing that You are faithful in all things, and that we would not worry about provision from one day to the next, being confident that You are able to open doors no man can shut.  Thank You for all of the ways in which You have been faithful to me, to us all.  I love You Lord, and I praise Your holy Name.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

God’s Strength When You’re Tired – November 24, 2015

Some days, it seems, I just wake up tired and dragging.  This morning was one of those times.  I stayed up late last night reading and surfing the net, not exactly the best thing to do when my busy mind is already in gear from a full day.  Nevertheless, I did, and was definitely feeling the effects this morning, when the alarm went off (way too early it seemed!) and it was time to get the kids up for school.

I saw a cartoon once that showed Jesus talking to a man and showing him the footprints in the sand.  It said, “You see these footprints over here?  That was when I carried you.  But, you see this long groove in the sand over there?  That was when I dragged you for a little while.”

That always makes me chuckle, because how true it is.  Some days, I feel like the Lord has to drag me around because I just don’t have the strength it seems to get everything done that I need to do in the twenty-four hours I’ve been given, yet my self-sufficiency (i.e. pride) tells me that I don’t need to be carried, I can do things just fine on my own, thank you very much.  I tell myself I’ll ask for help when I really need it.

I’ll bet God smiles when He sees my pathetic attempts at dragging myself around and trying to carry everything on my own little shoulders, and thinking that I am so strong and so big, not realizing that He is holding the load up so that it’s bearable and doesn’t break me.

Can you relate?  I smile now even as I write this because I think of my fourteen-year old son who says that he can’t wait to move out when he’s eighteen.  I tell him that as an adult there are bills and rent, cleaning the house,  forty-hour workweeks and things like paying taxes that aren’t as fun as playing Xbox live and hanging out with friends most of the time.  He’s sure that when he’s eighteen he’s got it made, not really understanding the concept that his parents are paying the utilities, providing for his shelter, and making sure that there is food in the house.

Don’t we often do that same thing though when we relate to God?  We say, “I got this,” not realizing that we are only breathing and our heart is still beating because He has given us another day to live.

The good thing is, we don’t have to come to the end of our rope to ask God for help and for strength.  I’ve done that far too many times- when I am sick, or when there’s a crisis, I finally say, “Lord, I can’t do this alone!”  But He is there to give us strength in every situation.  That’s why I love Matthew 11:28-30.  Here, Jesus says:

“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (NKJV).”

Isaiah 40:28-29 says, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.”

I’m praying for His strength for today and over the next couple of days, as I have to work a graveyard shift tomorrow night, and then we head to my in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving, so I will need His, because my body will probably be ready to sleep for about two days straight before we even get on the road Thanksgiving morning for the four and a half hour drive to my in-laws’ house.

Matthew 28-30 also promises that when we call upon Him, we will receive rest.  How lovely is that word, especially when I stop to think of all that it entails.  Not just rest as in sleep (though naps are nice too!) but rest from worry, from all of the hectic goings-on and the noise around us, rest from strain and struggle and toil.  Just resting in His arms and knowing that He is awake, even when we sleep.

“Thank You Lord, that You are our strength, that You are our refuge from the worries, the cares, the fatigue and the daily stresses in our lives.  When we are tired, I pray that we might run into Your arms and let You hold and carry us.  Forgive us when we try to go it alone, Lord, and forget that we need You.  Help us to desire to walk close with You each and every day.  I’m thankful that You’re right beside us always, and that You have been where we are so You understand, and that You’re with us in each tomorrow as well.  Help us to be living testimonies of Your strength and Your peace in our lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”