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Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

I sat on my sofa and stared at my room fan. It softly whirred as it oscillated back and forth. The steady white noise lulled me into a peaceful state. It didn’t complain. It kept doing it’s thing. Backadn forth, back and forth, spreading welcomed coolness.

My apartment faces west and in Texas summers the bank of off-cenered bay windows in my living room can make things a tad toasty. Thus the fan. I could train it to blow directly on me. But by letting it shift the airflow around the room in a steady pattern it ends up cooling four times as much space. Just takes a bit longer.

What type of fan am I? How about you? Do we focus on one thing and blast at it? Do a agreat job but perhaps could do better if we fanned out our efforts?

Or are we an oscillating fan which spreads our talents evenly over several areas, providing relief and service to many others?

Do we stay super focused on one point in our lives, or do we easily shift from one to another?

As I look at the life of Jesus on earth, His mission was focused on one thing, but the acting out of His mission spanned many lives from outcasts to Pharisees, from tax collectors to zealots, from women to men and small children. Each one He touched. Each one he blew the breath of love upon evenly. Each one He shed His blood for. No exceptions.

What about our evangelsitic efforts? Do we concentrate on the people we are more comfortable speaking with? Aim our efforts at someone who dresses and smells like us? Or do we span out, equally treating all with the same grace, love, and respect? Tough question.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul told his followers he tried to be everything to everyone so he would not be a stumbling block to anyone. (See 1Corinthians 9:19-23. He wasn’t being fake. Just the opposite. He was being real. He saw what the other peson needed and offered it in a way they could relate to. He found common ground. How?

One One Way – The Way- through the love of God in Christ Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What a difference we could make if we fanned out and, by living our lives day in and day out, emilating the fruit of the Spirit, we blew peace and love on all we see? We were more kind, gentle, patient, fore-bearing, loving…

A worthy goal. Sure, we will mess up if we try. Humans do. But the more we oscillate instead of standing still, the wider our reach will become. The more we use God’s eyes to see others, the better we can spread His goodness.

It’s a hot, hellacious world out there. Let’s be a fan, quietly influencing others wherever God turns us and cooling their anxiousness with His refreshing grace so freqently bestowed upon us.

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Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. Psalm 128:1

Years ago, I accepted a challenge to become a devotional editor for an international missionary society. Trouble was, I had to raise my own salary, as most missionaries do. But the fact I worked remotely at home meant my mission field was only as wide as my keyboard, though in truth it spanned worldwide. People couldn’t grasp the concept that I was not headed to Africa or Cambodia even though amore read our devotionals daily tahn most missonary with boots on the ground would come in contact with in a lifetime.

I tried every way I knew to glean financial support. I never became fully funded and couldn’t make even a decent poverty-level living. It tied my guts in knots. I’d cry in my sleep. I whimpered on my knees. I so wanted to serve in this way. My heart ached to keep doing this.

Finally, after five years of stressful existence and waning joy, I caved. I accepted a job offer from a Christian boss who appreciates my efforts and now I am able to support myself comfortably enough to help support other missionaries and my church. My faith-based novels are taking off as well, and I am under contract for 6 more of them.

But I felt as if I had let God down. I had failed…

But did I?

“No,” God whispered into my soul. While readership didn’t skyrocket, it increased and remained steady. I mentored over 35 writers, many who went on to write books. Even more have graciously volunteered their works each month for years, God bless them. And though I lived in low income housing, I never starved.

He used me where He needed me at the time. He is still using me, just differently.

I felt my Lord smiling and saying as He did to Isaiah, “I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called her. I will bring her, and she will succeed in her mission” (Isaiah 48:17- gender changed.) I learned a great lesson. Never compare myself to others using human standards of measurement. Success to God is simply obedience and persistance.

Wherever you are in life, God can use you. Stay obedient, even if that is picking up trash in your elderly neighbor’s yard or singing in the choir and never being asked to solo. Be it speaking to thousands at a religious rally or changing the diapers on two babies in the church nursery every week.

We all have a mission field but we need to let God define it and then rejoice that we are doing His will His way.

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The saying, Carpe Diem, or seize the day, became popular again a few decades ago in the movie Goodwill Hunting. Originally found in Horace’s writing in the century before Christ, it suggests that we should make the most of the present and not worry so much about the future or fret over the past.

Jesus seemed to echo this sentiment in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34 when He told His listeners not to worry about tomorrow or be anxious about today because, like the lillies and the birds, God will care for us.

But today, carpe diem epitomizes the “me society” attitude that what I do when I feel like doing it is all right and you have no right to judge me or stop me. Live for the moment. Do it what it takes to satisfy my own needs.

I doubt this is what Our Lord meant. Underlying His advice was the unerstanding that God is sovereign and in control, not us. He alone can see into the future so He shapes destiny. We obey.

So I propose we all get T-shirts or bumper stickers wth a new saying – Karpos Diem. The Greek word for “fruit” in Galatians 5:22-23 is karpos — “that which originates or comes from something.” And the karpe of the Spirit originates from obedience to God’s will: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If we strive to live each day following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and produce the fruit that stems from these qualities, wouldn’t we then not worry so much? Our lives would be less stressful than chasing after fleeting dreams of fulfillment, worth, and happiness. When we know it all comes from God, who has our best interests at heart, then life makes sense. It has purpose, and a future.

I think it purposeful that Adam and Eve’s sin of pride led to the fall after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. They wanted to live life their way. Carpe diem.

But through Christ’s sacrifce and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, we can now digest the attributes that restores us into the right relationship with our Heavenly Father, and then produce its fruit in our lives!

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a daily practice on digesting the fruit of the Spirit into our attitudes will help us to not only grow into the potential God created us to have, but spur others to seek this peace that a passes all understanding as well.

So, Karpos Diem my friends. Be frutiful and multiply!

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One letter can make a huge difference. Mean versus moan. Bad vs bed. Dog vs. dig.

Take the words son and sin. The letters that are different are the letter I and the letter O. But there is so much more to that observation. Hidden in it is a great truth.

 

 

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. I Corinthians 10:24

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

 

When “i” is in the middle of our thoughts, we are self-centered.   S.I.N. = See, I need.

Replace that with “o” and you have changed your focus to others’ needs.  S.O.N = See, others need.

Here’s why.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth not for Himself but for others. He died for us so we could have a bridge of reconciliation back to the Father in Heaven who loves us. We, in our sinful nature with our “me first” attitudes, separate ourselves from that love. Christ shows us a better way.

Christ calls us to act the way He lived on earth — to be other-focused. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you “– the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12. Time again He rebuked His listeners for not caring for others first and foremost. John, Paul, and Peter reiterated this many times in their letters to the faithful. They understood what a servitude attitude was all about. They lived it.

By humbling ourselves and putting others as our priority, God sees our motive as an act of love for Him and what He created. Serving others, praying for others, and loving others takes our minds, actions, and hearts off ourselves. Then, we begin to realize we have something in common – we all need love. We need each other. We need God.

We are not an island floating in a vast sea alone. We are part of creation as a whole, dependent upon the Creator.

Yes, of course, we should love ourselves…as creations of God. But when that love of self becomes the main focus, then sin sets in and pushes out the Son from our hearts, minds, and soul.

Prayer can reverse the order. It can replace the “i” with the “o”. Ask God to help you be more other-centered. He will send His Holy Spirit to guide you away from self into selflessness. Peace and happiness will flow from you as a result.

 

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She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. 2 Kings 4:22

She was rich, the Bible says. She would give the prophet Elisha a meal whenever he was in town because she knew he was a holy man of God. It was her way to honor him and the Lord. In fact, she made up a small room for Elisha to stay in so he could rest from his travels. But when her son fell ill and died, she didn’t lay the boy on his bed or even her own as was the custom for mourning visitations before burial. She laid him on Elisha’s guest bed and shut the door.

That, to me is an important difference. It shows faith. She didn’t mourn at all. She knew if anyone could revive her son, it was the man who acted for God, and hopefully, by the power of God, he’d heal the boy.

You see, she had been barren and Elisha prophesized God would give her a son in thanksgiving for her hospitality. So when that happened, she knew it as a gift from God. When her son collapsed in her arms and breathed his last, she sought out Elisha. She went to the source. She wanted the prophet, and only the prophet, to come since it was he who had prophesized she’d have the boy. Elisha saw her tenacious faith, went with her, and revived her son while she waited outside of the door.

The story tells me that when something awful happens to me, I need to respond in faith. Set it down, shut the door, and seek Jesus instead of wallowing in my sorrow or fear or hurt. Not try by my own knowledge or strength to handle it, and not to get angry with God. If I respond in faith, Jesus will respond to me.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

God may not do exactly as I ask, as Elsiha did for the tenacious woman, but He will do what is best in my situation. My response is to trust and pray. Shut the door on my problem and seek His face before anything else. He will know how to handle it as I wait patiently.

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But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16

When in comes to the Christan walk, there are three p’s:

Prayer

Power

Purpose

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have for fulfilling God’s purpose. When a car has a wobbly tire, it is hard to steer it straight. It keeps wanting to veer off. Prayer brings our mind, heart, and spirit in alignment with God the way a mechanic aligns the tires. It keeps us going in the right direction. Prayer is a privileged conversation with the Almighty, which requires listening as well as talking. It reminds us of God’s power when we humble ourselves and trust. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b)

Power is an elusive thing, except when it comes to God. He has power over everything, yet He grants us the free will to accept it or not. Many people find this to be a stumbling block because they wish to retain power. But once a person experiences the power of God, they soon fall to their knees in awe, and their response is prayer. They discover a new purpose–letting go and letting God. They learn freedom is bliss inside boundaries. They are no longer tethered to the lie that they have to be in total control. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. (Lord’s Prayer)

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Purpose – most of us at one time or another ask ourselves what our purpose is in life, or if life itself has a purpose. The answer is found in our relationship with God. Job knew this even after he went through more calamities than a person should ever have to experience. He said, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). The Christian has two purposes, which Jesus stated all else rests upon–Love God, love neighbor. (Matthew 27:37-40). Neither is easily accomplished without the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives, giving it purpose.

The initial Scriptural quote from Exodus is concerning Pharoah and his hardened heart. I chose it as an encouragement. God has a purpose for everything and everyone. He used Pharoah to show His power not out of some ego stunt but to show His people, the Hebrews, that He was with them and would not forsake them. It was also to show Pharoah that he was not a god. His power was limited.

Today there is pesecution in ways we have never experienced, and some say it will only get worse. Society will conintue to crumble into chaos, morals will keep declining, and life will be further devaluated.

Fear not. God has the power and a purpose. We can seek that and receive it through prayer, bringing power and purpose to our lives and those of others.

For more information, consider getting P.R.A.Y.I.N.G: Bringing more Power and Purpose to Your Prayers

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Two years ago I wrote on hope seeing it as:

H – Holding

O – Onto

P – Promised

E – Eternity

Many people choose a word for the new year, and for the past several years ago I have as well. Last year it was grateful, and through this pandemic, being grateful for my blessings was something I leaned upon a great deal to stay faithful and positive.

This year God placed the word HOPE on my heart. I’ll be honest, that made me a bit nervous. Then I recalled my little formula.

Hope is more than wishing. The dictionary says it is to “expect with confidence.” When you and I hold onto the promises of the eternal, then it produces hope. God keeps His promises. He has in the past and He will continue to do so. As I often say, He is there and He cares.

Whatever happens in 2021, I know this to be true and I can cling to it. This is not my home, and this life is not all there is. There is an eternity waiting for me. An existence basking in the love of God, praising the Lamb for His sacrifice, and never experiencing pain, grief, illness, or rejection again.

A social media post asks if it bothers you that this year is saying “2020-won”? No, because God wins. Each and every time. That is a hope we can cling to.

David wrote , Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24. That is my prayer for you, no matter what this year brings.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews stressed: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we possess, for He who promised is faithful. (10:23).

Join me in holding onto the promises of God in hope – unswerving, steady, expectant confidence that He has got this. As Paul said, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). Nothing can snatch us from His hands. Nothing. Not a virus, a secular angry society, an unexpected illness, a job loss, an unfaithful spouse, or the heartbreak of a wayward child.

Amen and amen.

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This time of year many of our minds are on gifts. What are we going to give Uncle George who is so hard to shop for? What about our grown kids? Our coworkers? Our pastors or ministry teams? How much should we spend? Should we bake cookies and treats to give neighbors or is that against the new social distancing rules?

And when someone asks us what gift we want this Christmas, what should we tell them?

This year, I want to ask you what I have been asking myself. What will I give Jesus this year?

After all, it is His birthday.

The magi brought Him gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.  According to the song. the little drummer boy brought him his talent by playing Jesus a song on his drum. And the baby Jesus smiled when he did. If anyone has heard a child play an instrument, they can relate. It may not have been the most amazingly executed tune they’ve heard, but the heart, the enthusiasm, and the intent on pleasing are there in every note. Who could but smile?

According to Romans 12:6, We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  

God has gifted us with amazing things – forgiveness, eternal life in His presence, and a love that brings peace beyond understanding. These are all wrapped up in the birth and sacrifice of His Son, who was born to die so we may live.

And through His Holy Spirit Jesus gifted us with gifts of the Spirit so we can live in this world without despairing, draw others to Him, and give Him the glory.  And He has graced you with a talent that can be used to His glory. Be it the ability to write, to calculate, to invent, to make money, to speak and inspire, to sing, or perhaps to play the drum.

Everything you have is a gift from God in one way or another.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

So what can we give the One who has everything?

Ourselves is the obvious answer. But what part of ourselves will we particularly give Him in 2020? Our best? He has that already. 

Why not pledge to give God something He can use? 

  • Our tendency to be anxious instead of trusting?
  • Our quick-to-judge character that dams up our ability to love and empathize?
  • The temper that blocks us from opening our hearts?
  • The doubts and fears that stop up our ability to give thanks in all circumstances?

Strange gifts perhaps. But if we give God our shortcomings, He can turn them into blessings for us and others. When we give of ourselves, it is the gift that keeps on giving once it is in Jesus’s nail-scarred hands. Because once we give our doubts, fears, anger, and prejudices to Him they are no longer in our possession. He can then do amazing things with them while He gives us comfort, joy, peace, and a loving heart instead. That will attract us, believers, to people and people to us.

Let us lay at His feet one of the things we need to work on in our character that keep us from being Christ-like and watch what He can do with it in 2021.

Christmas blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth… Psalm 74:17

Guinea pigs are smart…most of the time. They are cave dwellers in the wild so they have developed a natural fear of edges. They learn quickly to live within their boundaries.

Mine has set boundaries outside of his cage. Every evening, I lay down an old beach towel and let him romp on my couch for an hour or so as I watch a mystery on TV. He hops, skips, waddles, and chortles…but when he comes near the edge, he halts. Usually.

One night, I got up to get a drink of water and told him to stay put. Instead, he “followed me”– right off the edge. I heard a thump and then saw a black and white streak dashing under the nearest piece of furniture (a cave) to cower. I rushed to gather him, but he became so frightened he hesitated to come to me. Finally, I was able to scoop him up and hold him until his tiny heartbeat settled. Then I placed him back in his cage and he skittered into his house. Safe and sound.

He learned his lesson, though. The next night, when he got within an inch of the edge of the sofa and ottoman, he squeaked and ran to crawl up in my lap. My heart melted as I cuddled and calmed him.

You see where this is headed, right? 2020 has been a year of setting new boundaries for most of us, forced by a nasty contagious virus that has spread globally. Many do not like the restrictions and rules. I don’t blame them, I don’t care for them either.

But we have always had boundaries. Our laws give us the freedom to move within the realms of society. God’s commandments give us hedges of protection and guidance for behavior. Not obeying the rules has some unpleasant consequences.

But, sometimes we like to live on the edge. Perhaps we are tempted to ignore the rules and follow someone or something, even if it goes against our grain. Always a dangerous thing lest we fall into trouble.

But here is the good news. God is there to pick us up and place us back in the comfort of His realm of safety. His lap is always available for one more person to crawl into for comfort. He is our security, our strength, and shelter. Always.

Praise God for the boundaries He sets, and for his boundless love.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

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Allergies. Annoying. Postnasal drip, persistent cough, pressure around the teary eyes. I have been under immunotherapy for 6 months where the allergist injects into my body the things that irritate my body, slowing increase the amount, so I will build up an immunity to them. So far, it has only made my symptoms worse and my body wants to reject them even more. The allergist says it is part of the process and eventually my body will accept these irritants.

It seems this world wants us to undergo spiritual immunotherapy. Slowly our minds are injected with a viewpoint that initially the Holy Spirit in us would scream, “Reject!” Little by little, we are exposed over and over again to the things that prick our conscience. They get under our skin. Everywhere we look, acceptance is promoted.

Eventually, we can begin to get used to it as semi-normal. Seeing or hearing about these activities and opinions does not cause the adverse reaction they once did. We look the other way. After all, we are not to judge, right? It is a lifestyle, and if they have found love and happiness, is that so bad? There is too much hate in the world as it is.

A wise minister once said that Jesus loves us where we are, but too much to leave us there. God is there. And He cares.

We have all fallen short. We all sin. But, that means we all must be drawn to repentance of the sin, not acceptance. While we can love the sinner, and we should in order to help them, let us not become immune to the sin no matter what it is.

They say that sin always has “I” in the middle. The “I” doesn’t mean immunotherapy. It means looking inwardly at oneself. If that does not spur a need for repentance then that “I” is the issue. I am just born this way. It is who I am, accept me anyway. I don’t want to change.

The only cure is to replace the “I” with an “O” – let the sin be changed by the Son. He alone can encourage each of us to omit sin from our lives. But each of us can help open hearts to His ways by refusing to become immune to sin and yet still loving the person anyway. That takes strength from the Holy Spirit. And it takes time.

Maybe if we worked more to eliminate sin in our society rather than build up an immunity to it we could all breathe a bit easier. 

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-3

 

 

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