Reaching Out To Others
“‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:43).
The circumstances are never too adverse, nor the hour too late, to offer the gospel of Christ to someone.
Jesus was crucified between two criminals (thieves)—one on each side of His cross. At first the two men both joined the onlookers in hurling unbelieving rhetoric at the Lord (Mark 15:32). But one of the thieves obviously had a change of heart as the hours elapsed. He rebuked the other thief by pointing out Jesus’ sinlessness (Luke 23:40-41) and then expressed his need of salvation: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (v. 42). And Jesus graciously answered the thief’s request.
The dying thief’s conversion is an extraordinary story. At Calvary there was nothing convincing or favorable about Jesus. From man’s vantage point He was dying because He had been completely rejected; even the disciples had deserted Him. Jesus appeared weak, disgraced, and ashamed. When the thief uttered his plea for help, no one was pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Given the circumstances, it is difficult to comprehend how Christ could be concerned with the immediate salvation of a wretched thief who was justly being executed for his crimes. But our Lord cared very much about the destiny of that man’s soul. Jesus’ desire to see sinners saved was constant, because He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). His concern for the unsaved is the supreme example and motivation to us in reaching out to others.
The thief’s salvation is also a clear illustration of the sovereignty of God in redemption. So often the church wants to attribute someone’s salvation to human cleverness in presenting a well-crafted message at just the right time and in the most appropriate place. But salvation is always the direct result of God’s intervening grace. The sovereign work of God’s Spirit, not circumstances, gave the thief a saving understanding about who Jesus was and what His death was accomplishing.
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God for the courage to reach out with the good news of salvation no matter what the circumstances.
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187
What Would You Do?
What if you were told that you only had three weeks left to live? (or 3 days or 3 months)
This is a question often posed in casual conversation and the topic of a recent popular movie. The answers usually center around places we want to visit, daredevil acts we would like to perform or even quitting our jobs.
This question was posed to our church at a recent Sunday service, but the perspective we were asked to take had a twist.
What would you do if you were told, “In 3 weeks time you will stand in heaven, face to face with Jesus.”
The answer to this question may have a little different answer. Some would say they have relationships to heal, or they would go to church more, or give more to help the poor. You may want to show more love to those around you and not be quick to anger or judge. Whatever your answer I would imagine it would have something to do with preparing to see Jesus knowing you could testify that you had done all you could in this life to live as he has asked you to.
We have entered the Season of Advent. (capital A) A season of waiting and preparation. It is a wonderful season of looking forward to the celebration of the birth of our Savior.
But as Christians we should live in a season of advent. (lowercase a; defined as an arrival or coming, esp. one which is awaited) We should be waiting and preparing for the promised return of our Savior.
My prayer is this, that if I were asked the question, ” What would you do if in 3 weeks time you will stand in heaven, face to face with Jesus.”, I could answer, “exactly what I am already doing.” What about you?
Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44
Lord, Thank You For… Heart 2 Heart Humor
Note: Our devotion this month has been submitted by our dear H2H Sister, Melissa Verkuilen. During this season of Thanksgiving, what greater gift to be thankful for than the gift of laughter. Thank you Melissa for sharing with us.
On a warm autumn Friday evening I was on my way to make my annual retreat at Monte Alverno Retreat Center. For those of you who may not have heard of it, I’d like to make a “plug.” Monte Alverno considered itself Appleton’s best-kept secret. Located on the east side of town, the center spans 25 acres along the Fox River. The staff is hospitable, the food is excellent and the building and grounds are well kept. Walking trails follow the river to St. Joseph’s and Riverside cemeteries. Retreatants are encouraged to wander these hallowed grounds but, because most of the retreats are silent, are asked to refrain from talking until they reach the cemeteries. They say they have never had any complaints about the noise level from it’s occupants!
Even though I was running late, I had to make a stop to pick up my favorite cranberry scented candles. My retreat would NOT be completed without them. I waited patiently at an intersection blasting the radio and singing, not so softly, to “Burning Love.” Elvis and I were on fire when a carload of teenagers pulled up and proceeded to mock us! I smiled graciously, rolled up my window and continued to belt out the chorus. I tried to recapture the roll we had been on, but the fire had died. Little did I know that the flame would be rekindled in a way that I would have never expected.
Finally arriving at the center, I confirmed that “my room” had been reserved for me. This was one of the perks of being employed there for 10 years. I lugged my suitcase and overstuffed bags up THREE flights of stairs. Nearing the landing I noticed, to my horror, Mr. Bear’s hindquarters peering out of bag! How to explain a grown woman toting a teddy bear posed a problem. My retreat would NOT be complete without him. Fearing exposure, I quickly stuffed him back in my tote and nonchalantly walked to my room. Another horror awaited me. One of the doors to “my room” was closed, leading me to believe the bedroom adjacent to mine was occupied. I would have to share a bathroom. I am not opposed to sharing but am up numerous times through the night to “tinkle” which I was certain would have disrupted my roommate. My retreat would NOT be complete without “my room.” I prayed for strength and guidance. And…dragged my luggage back down FOUR flights of stairs in search of a room with a private bath. I lit my candles and unpacked my bags. As I settled in and threw my feet up for a spell, it hit me. I couldn’t possibly stay in this room. It didn’t feel right. The atmosphere was all wrong. I blew out the candles, repacked my bags and went in search for a different room.
Back up the stairs I went and found an acceptable room on the 1st floor. Before I made a commitment I decided to make sure my newfound room was available. In the lobby I found Father Werner, director of the center and the man responsible for reserving “my room.” Was I all settled in he asked. Settled in? Was he serious! I felt like I had competed in The Iron Man! I frantically explained the mix up with “my room” only to discover it was HE that closed the door to discourage invaders. Well!
As I, once again, climbed the THREE flights of stair I was overcome with a sense of de’ja’ vu. I unpacked my bags, lit my candles and dropped on the bed. I was pooped!
As I lay there contemplating the greatness of life, I heard the heater kick in. Before I got any deeper in thought I decided to turn off the heat or I’d be roasting like a duck come morning. I bent over the desk to turn the heat valve and instantly smelled something burning. I looked down to discover my left breast was on fire! I had leaned right over one of the candles. Frantically swinging my arms, I slapped at my chest to extinguish the flames. Thankfully the smoke alarm didn’t go off, could you imagine! Once I was certain I was no longer on fire I sat down to assess the damage. I had a hole the size of a dinner plate in my best dress shirt. Oh, how I loved that shirt! I had a small burn on my breast yet my brand new $50.00 bra was unharmed. Then and there I got down on my knees and lifted up a prayer. Lord, thank you for…a flame resistant bra!
Are you facing a mountain? Is your faith feeling shaky? Do you feel like you have no direction?
Jesus tells us in Matthew that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed that we can say to a mountain, move from here to there and it will. While I know that could be taken literally I also believe that scripture overall does not teach that we can walk through life removing any and all obstacles. Sometimes the only way to get the mountain under your feet is to climb it. As a matter of fact James tells us that when, (Not IF BUT WHEN) we face these obstacles let it bring us joy for when our faith is tested it has opportunity to grow.
I do believe that the Lord removes these mountains, but I believe that we must not allow our finite minds to focus on the obstacles directly in front of us, but that we focus on the one that created the mountain in the first place, and the one who gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other. Praise Him for whatever you are facing, for even in the hard times you are not alone. The Lord is always teaching us to depend on Him; giving our faith an opportunity to grow.
Scripture assures us that if we know Him as Lord and Savior that the ultimate destination will be the top, and that will happen when we see Jesus face to face. Until that time don’t worry about tomorrow, face today with joy in your heart, trusting the Lord to meet you where you’re at. Keep moving, Keep climbing, Keep the faith.
Paul all throughout his ministry never asked the Lord to give him strength to walk away, but to give him strength to stay. Let us learn from that as we stay strong and keep pushing on and never stop climbing!
The Red Purse
Coming into my 60’s had a profound effect on me. It seemed that everything either sagged, wrinkled or just plain quit working. Aside from the changes my body experienced, I notice some changes mentally as well. Thinking more about today and worrying less about tomorrow became easier; after all as you get older, it becomes a fact of life that today is pretty much all you’ve got. And, I bought a red purse. Now, you would have to know me to appreciate what a big step that was. I am pretty much a black, white, and navy blue kind of gal so, purchasing a big red pocket-book was a bold move. Over the past couple years, that red purse has become like a friend to me. As constant companions, we have come to know and depend on each other. Like me, she is becoming worn in spots and more than a little frayed around the edges. Her zipper doesn’t work quite as smoothly and her lining is ripped.
Every time I go out with my daughter, she mentions that I need to replace my red purse. “I like it” I tell her, “there is nothing wrong with my purse”. “But Mom”, she says, “the stitching is coming loose and the leather is worn down. It’s all worn out.” She’s right. It is all worn out. But in spite of how frayed it is on the outside, my red purse still serves a purpose. I can still put all my treasures inside with confidence that they will be secure. It still carries my eyeglasses, my phone, my tissue, my lipstick and a myriad of other “necessities”, and it rarely complains about the strain.
We live in a world where the new and improved is mostly preferred over the old and proven. It’s like that with people as well. The world looks at those who have become frayed and worn on the outside and judge that their usefulness is spent. If they would just take the time to look on the inside, they would discover treasures. They would find a bounty of experience, wisdom, counsel; wealth that can only come from living.
This attitude toward the aged is not new. As King David was in the later years of life and faced his son Absalom’s rebellion to take over the kingdom, David prayed, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Psalms 71:9).
My Mother now lives in a nursing home with many others who, like her, have lived out the better part of their lives. She has advanced dementia and can barely speak in sentences. Her eyesight has failed so that she can barely see and her legs are so weak they can hardly support her frail frame. It would be easy to spend a few minutes with her and conclude that she has nothing to offer. I know better. All those years of living, learning, and experiencing are still inside her mind. Just because she has lost the ability to express her wisdom, doesn’t mean she no longer has it. I think back at all the advice she gave me through the years, advice which most of the time, I regret to say, I ignored. I wish with all my heart, just one more time I could ask her what I should do about a given situation. As I look back, I realize that she was right about most everything. I may not be able to ask her for her thoughts, but It’s not too late to seek her advice. I can simply look back at how she lived, how she loved, and learn more about life than all the world could ever hope to teach me.
I go back to David’s words “do not cast me off…” “do not forsake me…”. His words were spoken to God in a prayer thousands of years ago but are oh so relevant to our culture today.
I urge you to spend time with those who have actually lived life. Visit with someone who has gone through season after season and survived the storms that came with each one. Learn from those who have gained wisdom that came from their experience of good times and hard times.
Start your own “Red Purse Society”. Seek out those whose leather is worn and whose stitching is loose; look inside and I promise, you will find great treasure.
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:32)
“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11
I AM SUPERMOM!! Everyday………… my house gets cleaned from top to bottom, I run all my errands (and never forget anything on my list), arrive at least 10 minutes early for all my appointments, play with my kids every time they ask, visit with friends, volunteer at school, workout at the gym, get the kids to and from all their practices and games, put a healthy and delicious meal on the table each night, support my husband, and spend at least an hour in quiet time with God, all while looking like I just came from a cover shoot. And this all happens… …….in my head before I get out of bed.
There are two things I do before I get out of bed each morning. First, I thank God for another day and offer it to Him. I ask Him to help me be a light for Him in a dark world and for Him to guide my decisions and actions for that day. Secondly, I begin to list out in my head all the things I need to accomplish, the places I need to be, and the people I need to talk to for the day. This can be a great way to start the day. So why are there so many nights I go to bed feeling like I have failed God, my family and myself?
A few mornings ago as I was in the middle of my conversation with God and was about to lay out MY plans for the day, God abruptly stopped me. I clearly heard the words of Jeremiah 29:11. In context, these words are not promising us that life is a bed of roses, but rather, even though we have hard days filled with commitments and struggles, if we follow God and the plans He has for us He will guide us to the future He has laid out for us.
When you give your day to God are you giving Him your plans, or are you giving Him your self? Are you letting Him guide you in where He wants you to go? He has shown me that giving my day to Him is more than just a quick prayer in the morning. It is a conscious effort all day long. I am working hard at giving each moment to God, trying to continually ask Him, “what’s next?’ as I go through my day.
I am sure there will still be days when I go to bed with a dirty bathroom, and dinner was from a drive-thru while we are rushing not to be late for a game. But I know that when God is my constant guide, I can look back as I lay down at night and see all the things we have accomplished together instead of all the things I failed to do on my own.
Trouble with the Truth
One of my all time favorite country artist is Patty Loveless. A few months ago I was excited to find one of her CD’s at a Yard Sale for .50 cents. I’ve been listening to it in my car ever since. I found myself drawn to one song in particular. I’d skip over track one and back up from track three to hear it’s words over and over. The Lord began to speak to me through it’s words and it is those thoughts that I’d like to share with you.
I think as Christians often times our “trouble” is that we don’t let the truth have it’s way in our lives. Galatians 5:8 says, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth“? The answer to that question will always bring you back to sin. 1John 1:6 tells us, “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth“. Practicing the truth involves setting our minds on the things that are above instead of the things that are here on earth. Galatians 5:16 gives us clear direction: …“walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh“.
Scripture tells us the SUM of the word is truth. God’s Word is inerrant, it’s timeless and it’s complete. There are warnings throughout that nothing is to be added to it nor taken from it. We can’t pick and choose what feels right or principles to live by based on our current circumstances. Scripture speaks with authority. It speaks definitively. It speaks decisively. It calls for absolute conviction. Time and time again God’s Word gives direction on how we are to walk. In James 4 we are told to submit to God and resist the Devil. In 1 John we are urged to have discernment between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error and that no lie is of the truth. In 1 Peter we are commanded to turn from evil and do good. Isaiah 55 informs us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts nor is His way our way. Romans chapter 1 warns us not to exchange the truth about God for a lie.
Do you have trouble living by the truth of God’s Word at all times and in every situation? I think it’s imperative as Christians to remind ourselves that believing something doesn’t make it true. We have the responsibility to align all our thoughts against the “plumb line” of God’s Word. The bible should be our standard for testing everything else that claims to be true.
The entire chapter of Psalm 119 is dedicated to God’s truth and it’s role in the believer’s life. All 176 verses express the Psalmist’s love for God’s truth. Psalm 119:89 “Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven“. This is another confirmation of the absolute authority and finality of the Word of God. God’s Word is eternal and unfailing. Opinions may change, but the Word of the Lord is constant. David’s words are my hearts cry and I pray it will be yours as well. “Lord, lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation”. (Psalm 25:5)
Thoughts For The Graduate
This past week my daughter graduated from the 8th grade. For those of you who are not familiar with Catholic Schools, this is a big deal and a very exciting time for these kids. It is also a big deal to me as a mom. I have spent much of the last month wondering if I have done my job and prepared my daughter for the challenges and experiences she will have in the next four years. The young ladies and young men in her class have been together, for the most part, since preschool and for the past 11 years they have grown together in relative security. They will now be joining over 300 other students, making new friends and gaining new freedoms.
I am currently serving as the Chairperson of our School Board and gave the address to the students at the graduation ceremony. As I shared my speech with my mom, she asked me if I would also share it here as our June devotion. While these words are written for an 8th grade class, they could be shared with any graduate in your life and may even have a few lessons for all of us.
This month, remember in your prayers all who are graduating. Whether it be from 8th grade, High School or College, they face enormous challenges and need the hand of God leading them in the next phase of their journey.
Excellence in Education and Catholic Faith. The mission statement of Kaukauna Catholic School System. It is our responsibility to ensure that mission is fulfilled. But how do we measure success? We believe it is sitting before us tonight in these 29 fine young ladies and young men.
Graduates, You are finishing the life chapter of your grade school education and beginning a new chapter of life in high school. The education you have received at Kaukauna Catholic School system, began with songs like the “Tuti Ta” and stories from Cheeto, and continued through D O L, timed tests, science lab, and trips through history. You have explored art and music, learned a foreign language, become physically fit and developed computer skills that I am sure all of your parents have relied on at one time or another. This has built a strong foundation for your future education.
Equally as important has been the development of your faith. It has been our goal to teach you that your faith should be a part of every aspect of your life. Remember that you are a part of the body of Christ and don’t be ashamed to let others see that. It’s not about who you are, but whose you are.
Listen to the Spirit as you make choices with new friendships. Seek wisdom and knowledge, and share it with those around you. Show the mind of Christ.
Offer words of encouragement, lift up others when their spirits are low, and pray for them. Be the voice of Christ.
Show compassion in others sadness, join with their happiness and share your joy. Be the heart of Christ.
Don’t be afraid to share a hug, welcome those who are forgotten, and reach out to the lonely. Be the arms of Christ.
Pat others on the back in their success, give freely of your time so that others loads might be a little lighter. Be the hands of Christ.
Always stand firm in your beliefs, remember to kneel in prayer, and then go out and tell others about God’s Grace. Be the legs of Christ.
Have the courage to “step out” in faith and face your fears, but remember to “step back” so that the glory goes to God. Be the feet of Christ.
Answer His call each day, do the work He gives you to do, seek His will for your lives and let your faith show in how you live. Be the Body of Christ.
But I want to remind you also, that while we are called to serve and be Christ to others, we are God’s children and He loves us because of who we are, not because of what we do. You have value simply because you are His. Not because you look nice or perform well. You are valuable just because you are. Remember that, when you are left bobbing in the wake of someone else’s selfishness. Remember that, when a practical joker tries to discount your self-worth. Remember that, when you are offered a pleasure that is temporary but could have lasting consequences.
The challenges you are given may seem overwhelming but I am confident you will meet them head on and be successful. It has been a great pleasure to be able to watch you grow into the outstanding group of young adults that you are. You are talented, funny, beautiful, intelligent and compassionate and I know you will have a positive impact on every life you touch.
I am grateful to the leadership, staff, and volunteers who have helped with your journey so far and I pray that God will provide others to help you as you continue your journey.
Finally, I would like to leave you with the words of Philippians 1:6: “be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it.”
The Excitement Of Easter
And since we have a Great High Priest who rules over God’s people, let us go right into the presence of God with true hearts fully trusting Him. Hebrews 10:21-22
I know that you will most likely know all that I’m about to write, and you’ve most assuredly studied the scriptures that I’m about to quote. My prayer is that as we celebrate the Easter holiday this year that you might catch the excitement that the Holy Spirit has given me.
Mark 15 tells us that right after Jesus breathed his last breath that the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This curtain was what divided the Holy Place in the temple from the Most Holy Place. No one except the High Priest could enter, and he could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The high priest would enter the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the sins of the nation.
The curtain being torn from top to bottom symbolizes our access to God because of Jesus’ death. The days of approaching God through priests and sacrifices were over.
The marvelous truth of knowing that because of Christ’s death and resurrection He has become our Great High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great perfect sanctuary in heaven. Once for all time He took blood into that Most Holy Place; not the blood of goats and calves. He took His own blood, and with it He secured our salvation forever. Hebrews 9:11-12
Whew! Doesn’t that just send chill bumps all over? But, this is not to be a once a year feeling or an emotion. This is the foundation of what our relationship with our Savior is all about. This relationship is personal.
Hebrews 10:19 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters we can boldly enter heavens Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of His death for us.
Since we have passed through the curtain into the living presence of God, by the blood of Christ we have no need of fear and no possibility of failure. Christ has made us clean, washed us with pure water and given us hope. In Him we can find confidence for tomorrow and help for today.
I pray that if you’ve allowed the things of this world to keep you from boldly entering the throne of God’s mercy and grace that this reminder might set things in motion for you to go right into the presence of God with a true heart fully trusting your Savior.
Happy Easter 2010!
LORD, Heal My Land
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
I wanted to write a devotion this month about spring. I wanted to talk about how the season of spring is about new life, new beginnings. Those are the things I wanted to write about, but the right words wouldn’t come. Instead, I have been moved to write to you about healing. As I look around, I see so much sickness; the enemy seems to be having a field day not only in the world at large, but in the lives of the children of God as well.
I have read and recited 2 Chronicles 7:14 many times. Each year on the National Day Of Prayer, I turn to this verse as a reminder of God’s promise. I have always looked at this verse in light of the healing of a nation, and indeed, it is relevant to our country and our world if we are to have restoration. But, until just now, I have never given much thought to how this promise might extend to our individual lives.
I invite you to take a few moments and look out over your “land”. Where do you need healing? Your marriage, your children, your job? Is there an addiction, a physical illness, an emotional struggle, a broken heart?
What does the Lord tell us we need to do? 2Chronicles 7:14 gives us three things.
You will want to give special attention to the order of God’s instruction, it’s important.
First, we must submit, that is, humble ourselves. Now, that’s a hard one; being submissive to the authority of another, even when it’s God, goes against our grain because we want to be in control. Of course, if we admit to ourselves that doing it our own way is how we got to this point in the first place, submitting shouldn’t be so difficult. As we humble ourselves before the Lord, as we bow low in His presence, the healing will begin and we will find relief as the weight of our burden is lifted.
Next we must seek God’s face. So often, our prayers are a laundry list of our needs – “Here’s what’s wrong God, this is what I want and this is how I want you to do it.” Sound familiar? The Hebrew word for seek is bâqash (baw-kash’). It means to search out, to beg, to plead. Seeking the face of God is not some nice little meek, gentle petition we offer up on the off chance that God might find favor with us. To seek God’s face is to beg Him to reveal to us His mind, His will, His desires, His way. Seeking God’s face is what Jacob did in Genesis 32 when he wrestled with God and would not let go until God blessed him – and the blessing was given. Jabez was seeking the face of God in 1 Chronicles 4:10 when he cried out to Him “enlarge my border, be with me and keep me from harm” – and God granted his request. The blind man of Luke 18:38 was seeking the face of God when he would not be silenced, but continued to cry out to Jesus for mercy – and Jesus heard him and healed him.
Finally, we must repent. Notice, the scripture doesn’t say “tell God you’re sorry”. True repentance isn’t simply a matter of apologizing. Repentance is turning back, laying down; it is a broken heart caused by our sin against a loving God. It’s all well and good to say I’m sorry, but repentance requires change, otherwise all you have are words that mean nothing.
Our having done these things, what does God promise? He promises He will hear us, forgive us, and heal us. He will restore us and make us whole. The healing may take some time, complete healing always does. A wound must heal from the inside out. Imagine you have a cut on your finger. After a few days, the cut may appear to be well but if you were to peel back the scab you would see that the wound underneath is still red and raw. You wouldn’t say “guess this is never going to get well, I might as well cut my finger off”. You would continue to nurse the cut until healing was completed. That’s how it is with the wounds in our lives. We must allow God to heal them from the inside out, layer by layer restoring the damaged tissue. Put your trust in God, He will be your Jehova Rapha – The Lord Who heals.
Maybe I was wrong, maybe this is a story of spring after all. Spring is about new life, new beginnings, and isn’t that really the promise given here?
“Lord, I come humbly before your throne, knowing that I am not worthy of Your attention. I confess that I am a sinner, deserving of death. All my righteousness is but filthy rags. Forgive me and show me mercy. Pour out your grace upon me, not for my sake, but for the sake of Your name. Restore me. Lord, heal my land.”
A Life Of Purpose
I cannot help but wonder if at this time last year I had known the challenges that lay ahead in 2009, what kind of attitude I would have faced the year with.
I had absolutely no idea that I would be faced with sickness, trials, struggles, loss and disappointments.
While I refuse to look back and give any effort or energy to the idea of second guessing God or even to ask why, I do seek to thank God for His immeasurable grace that was able to sustain me, and for His ever present comfort even in the midst of the trials and tough decisions.
I spent the last few months of 2009 reading through the book of Acts. As I ponder the life of Paul and his ministry, I find myself wondering if my character could possibly measure up to his.
ACTS 20:23-24 reads: …“the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus -the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.”
I seek to be like Paul in this way; even with the knowledge and guarantee that hard times were ahead he was focused more on what he put into life versus what he got out of it. While he was promised jail and suffering, he was concerned with his service to the Lord and sharing God’s love with a lost and dying world.
Think about how different things would be if we viewed our circumstances the way Paul did.
How much money we are going to give would begin to replace how much money were going to make. Making a habit of humbly lifting others up instead of seeking self-recognition. Resolve to use our circumstances to shed light on God’s grace rather than allowing our circumstances to throw shadows on our testimonies.
As we begin a New Year, might we be willing to live as Paul did by dying to self? For he realized that all the things that this world could offer him did not compare with what treasures he was storing in heaven. Matthew 5:21 reads “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be”. Might our hearts desire to share God’s love with others overshadow all the things that this world has to offer.
I love the quote I came across by Jim Elliot…He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
May you be blessed as you come to realize that whatever we do for furthering the kingdom of God is all gain.
The Heart of Christmas
I can’t believe this year is nearly over. I told someone the other day, “I just got used to writing 2009 and soon I’m going to have to remember to write 2010! Everything seems so rushed. It seems every year the stores begin promoting Christmas earlier and earlier. No joke, one store I was in a couple months ago was displaying Christmas decorations and they had not even put out Thanksgiving merchandise yet! Most likely between now and December 25th we will all be asked many times “are you ready for Christmas?” (I don’t know about you, but for me that’s one of those questions that drive me crazy. It’s right up there with being nine and a half months pregnant and being asked “haven’t you had that baby yet?” )
Well, at the risk of being annoying let me ask: “are you ready for Christmas?” Oh, I don’t mean do you have all the decorations up and all your shopping done. You may have pulled out the garland and untangled the lights, you’ve possibly even decorated the tree, wrapped a few presents, and put the giant inflatables on the lawn. But, are you READY? In the hustle and bustle of your preparations, have you spent some time preparing your heart? It’s a fact; we often get so caught up getting ready for the event that we completely miss the advent.
In the gospel of John, Chapter 1 verse 14a John writes – “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The Modern King James Version says tabernacled among us. I like that translation. It seems to more clearly define the relationship God has established with us through the birth of Christ. Stop for a moment and just think about it. Jesus came to earth to live, to dwell, to tabernacle with us. Isn’t it amazing? He pitched His tent in our hearts! (are you getting a visual?) But, as hard as we might try, I’m not sure we can even begin to grasp what that means to us – for us. The Holy God of the universe lowered Himself to the form of a human. For a time, He gave up all the glory of heaven, He came to earth as a baby – poor and needy, because of His love for us. The wonder of it all takes my breath away!
So, as you make your plans and preparations for this Christmas season, as you are writing out your gift list, why not make another gift list; a list of gifts to exchange with the One whose birthday we celebrate. In exchange for His gift of freedom, honor Him with praise; for His gift of peace, give Him adoration, for His gift of love, give Him your all. I am convinced that if we spend a little more time preparing our hearts, come Christmas morning we will experience a greater joy than our minds could conceive as we are wrapped in the fullness of His glory.
And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth. John 1:14
SandraP.S. If you have never surrendered your life to Jesus, there is no better time to do so than now. Jesus wants to give you the greatest gift of all…eternal life. To receive His gift, you need only confess that you are a sinner in need of a redeemer, believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God. That He died for the remission of your sins, He was buried and that He is risen from the grave. Ask Jesus to be the Lord and Master of your life – your Savior, and He will pitch His tent in your heart. Jesus came into the world as a baby, he grew into a man humble, meek and mild, He is coming again as a warrior king to redeem that which belongs to Him. I pray you will be among those for whom He comes.
“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20
Each year as my children’s birthdays approach, I remind them that as family gathers to celebrate and they receive gifts, that they are to be thankful for what they are given. Last year as my oldest son was opening a gift from his aunt, my youngest loudly reminded him, “remember, Mom says you have to say thank you even if you don’t like it.” Talk about an embarrassing moment.
But what if I take the time to examine my own heart against the lessons I am trying to teach my children? It is easy to be thankful for what I perceive to be the “good gifts”. A new car, a nice house, healthy children, a good job and a loving husband. But what about when the car breaks down, the furnace dies, my child throws up on my brand new sofa, my boss hands me a pink slip and my husband forgets my birthday. Am I thankful for the gifts I don’t like?
God’s word says, “be thankful ALWAYS for ALL THINGS”. He wants me to recognize that sometimes the greatest blessings are hidden in what the world tells me is the “bad stuff”. I need to take the time to look for God’s blessings that are hidden in my circumstances. My car may have broken down, but I have a dear friend who will come to my rescue on a late January evening. The furnace has died, but as my family gathers around the fireplace we share hot cocoa and a bonding moment that we don’t often get in todays hectic world. My daughter threw up on my sofa, but now she lets me hold her in my lap and rub her head without telling me she is too old and too cool for that anymore. The pink slip I received last week has turned into an offer for the job of my dreams that I never would have had the courage to go after in different circumstances. My husband forgets my birthday, but ummm……ummmm….I don’t have to pretend to be excited when I open yet another household appliance?! (OK sometimes I have to really dig deep for the blessings).
With the holiday of Thanksgiving approaching I am sure many of us have traditions of sitting around the family table and sharing the things we are thankful for. This year as you celebrate that tradition I have three challenges for you. First, dig a little deeper. Look for those things in your life this past year that you may not have easily recognized as things to be thankful for and find the blessings you received through those circumstances. Secondly, don’t wait until next Thanksgiving to give your thanks to God again. Thank him everyday, always in all things. And lastly, share those things you are thankful for with others around you. I think we would be amazed at how our view of the world would change if we all shared our hidden blessings.
In His Love,
Conviction or Compromise?
“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time“. Galatians 6:9
No one would argue that we live in a world of compromise. Too many Christians worry about what people think, say, or do if they take a stand on Godly principles. So instead, they compromise their convictions or maintain them under a cover of darkness.
From the moment we open our eyes each day we have choices to make…
- Get up when the alarm goes off or hit the snooze button half a dozen times?
- Make bible study and prayer time a priority or allow only enough time to get ready and drag the kids out of bed?
- Wear the modest outfit or the outfit the guy at the office seems to notice me in?
- Listen to music that honors God on the way to taking the kids to school or the rap music I hate, but they keep begging me to listen to?
- Honor God with my time or take an extra long lunch because the boss is out of town?
- Choose to show kindness toward those around me or be hateful because of what my husband did this morning?
- Honor the Lord’s day by attending church with my family or let my son play his make up football game on Sunday morning?
Sometimes the choice can be a hard one to make, and often the right choice is not the easy one. I know and realize this more now than ever as my husband and I try to raise our children in a Christian home. striving to teach biblical and moral principles. I often times find myself buying into what the world is selling. As Christians we must always be willing to test our attitudes, thoughts, and actions against what the Word of God says. The world around us says one thing, and God’s Word says another. So do I choose to side with my convictions or do I choose to compromise what I believe to be truth? One thing is for sure, you cannot have it both ways.
Daniel was one such man who held to his conviction and was unwilling to compromise.
[Daniel 1:8-9] “But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead. Now God had given the chief official great respect for Daniel.”
There are various reasons why Daniel could have refused to eat the King’s fare; It could be that it was sacrificed to idols, it could be that it was forbidden by Jewish law to eat certain meats, or because accepting the king’s food was the first step toward depending on t
he king’s gifts and favors. The reason Daniel would not eat the king’s fare we don’t know for sure and it’s also not the main point. What is the main point is that Daniel knew what he was supposed to do or in this case not to do and he was resolved to follow his conviction. He was devoted to principle and committed to a course of action and God blessed him by giving the kings officials a favorable attitude toward him. Although Daniel was in a culture that did not honor God, he still obeyed God’s laws. Daniel was being true to a lifelong determination to do what was right and not to give in to the pressures around him.
Just like Daniel we are often pressured to compromise our standards and live more like the world around us. Situations WILL arrive where a choice is required. You must be willing to stand up for what you believe is true, honorable and right; To chose anything other than that my friend and you’ve fallen into the trap of compromise.
If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!
What A Friend
Many churches today have moved to a contemporary music program. I enjoy the songs of praise and worship, they can be inspiring and uplifting. However there is just something about the classic hymns that draw us back to our roots and bring us comfort. Songs like Amazing Grace, Leaning On The Everlasting Arms, How Great Thou Art, and Old Rugged Cross are full of message and meaning that transcends the generations.My Mother was stricken with Alzheimer’s and in the later days of her life could barely remember who I was; but she never forgot the words to those wonderful old hymns. As we would stand side by side in church, her sweet mellow voice sang confidently and strong, and one could almost forget the reality of her disease. As she sang, her mind was with Jesus and was, at least in that moment, strong and whole.Recently, I woke up in the middle of the night worried over a situation I was struggling with. As I lay there tossing and turning, I began to think about what a blessing it is to have friends that you can turn to when you have problems. Now, I have some dear and wonderful friends, but no matter how great they are or how loveable I am, they probably would not appreciate a phone call at 2:00 am. And then, there in the darkness it was if I could hear Mother’s sweet voice: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief’s to bear, what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.” It was such a comfort to be reminded that I do have a friend I could call on in those lonely hours. That the One who neither slumbers or sleeps is only a whispered prayer away. I have heard the words from the song “what a friend” most of my life but that’s pretty much all they were – words. As I have grown in my walk with God I have become more and more aware of the truth of those words. Jesus is not just some character in a book we learned about in Sunday school. He is not just some historical figure who walked on this earth and then died some 2,000 years ago. Jesus lives. He is as alive today as He was then. When you know Him, you can feel His presence and hear His voice.Do you need a friend today?Are you carrying a heavy burden? Take it to Jesus. “Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer”. Listen and you will hear Him calling you –“If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest”. (Matthew 11:28). He not only doesn’t mind when you come to Him, He invites you to, He wants you to come.Need a hug? He’s waiting for you. “In his arms he’ll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there”. Arms spread wide. Any time day or night. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). Jesus is there for you. He will wrap you in His loving arms and there you will find comfort, peace, and assurance.Just want someone to talk to? “Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?“ Whether you need to talk about something as trivial as a lost item or as serious as a lost loved one, Jesus listens. He’s never too busy or preoccupied with other things. When you talk to Jesus, He gives you His undivided attention. Peter sums it up perfectly in 1 Peter 5:7 “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him”. (CEV)Do you feel as if you are all alone? “Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? “ Even if everyone else turns away, Jesus will not. You see, He knows what it means to be abandoned, He’s been there. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). When someone has walked in your shoes, they share in your pain, they understand it. Jesus understands.We are blessed when we have close friends for they truly are a gift from God. It’s a comfort when you know you can pick up the phone and hear the voice of someone you love on the other end. However, there are times when even your closest and dearest friend can’t be there for you. There are times when no matter how much she wants to, she just can’t understand. And, there are the middle of the night times when it’s just you and the silence. You long to hear another voice but there is no one to call. Now you know – there is someone. His name is Jesus and He’s waiting to hear from you.Sandra
Peace Like A River
Most likely you have heard the saying ”running around like a chicken with its head cut off”? For those “city slickers” out there, who may not be familiar with headless chickens, when a chicken’s head is cut off, it takes several minutes for the body to get the message. It’s a strange sight, the chicken continues to run around the barnyard and it looks as if he’s trying to figure out what in the world is going on.Have you ever felt like the proverbial chicken? Has there ever been a time when your schedule was so hectic and full of demands that you didn’t know which way to go or what to do first? I recently had a headless chicken week. There were several major projects going on, all of them priorities and all of them were due on the same day. For a week before the deadline, I fretted and dreaded, moaned and groaned, lost sleep and lost my appetite (ok, so it wasn’t all bad). Finally, on the morning of the “day of reckoning”, I came face to face with the reality that what was required was humanly impossible to accomplish. I just wanted to run away from it all, to crawl under the covers and live there. Instead, finally – thankfully, I ran to God’s word. What I found there was amazing!Isaiah 48:17-18 says, Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea”. This is a powerful scripture on so many levels. We see Jesus reveal Himself as a personal God. He tells us that He is our Redeemer, our LORD, our God, our teacher, our leader. The words that follow however are the ones that really hit home for me on this particular day. “Then (if you had listened to my commandments) your peace would have been like a river”.My mind fixated on those four words “peace like a river.” I wanted to consume them, to grasp their full meaning, because if there was one thing I needed right then, it was peace.Try to envision if you will the life of a river. Look beneath it’s surface. The river’s course is greatly influenced by what lies on the bed. Along the river’s path are many obstacles – rocks, tree roots, valleys, and caves. As it moves steadily toward the sea, it will often change courses. At times the waters are calm, at other times rough and choppy; but the river keeps right on flowing.In the verses from Isaiah, Jesus is telling us “listen to Me. There may be times when you need to change your course – don’t worry, I will show you the way. You will face obstacles, things you don’t understand – don’t fear, I will teach you. Many times your path will be rough and rocky – I will guide you at every turn. In those times when your destination seems uncertain – hear My voice and I will teach you”.Now that’s peace!SandraP. S. As always, Jesus was faithful to His Word. The circumstances didn’t change, the details, deadlines, and demands still had to be met. But as I received and believed Jesus’ words, as I obeyed Him and trusted Him, He changed me. As He promised, peace like a river flooded my mind and spirit. The deadlines were met and the Lord profited me with success. All to the glory of Jesus Christ. Is there some situation in your life for which you need peace. Possibly an illness, the loss of a loved one, a wayward child, or just the stress of day to day life. Whatever the need Jesus is waiting to give you the peace you desire if you will only trust Him enough to give Him the worry of your heart. “Jesus, this burden is too great. I am crippled from the weight of worry about…………………… Help me Jesus to have faith in You, to let go of this worry, to obey You when You say “ trust Me”. Teach me Lord how to bring this worry to the hill of Calvary, lay it down at the foot of the cross, turn and walk away and leave the worry behind”. Amen When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
- Refrain:It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
We all need reminders…I love this time of year for it holds many reminders for me. Spring itself reminds me of a hope of new beginnings. Mother’s Day gives me an opportunity to express to my Mom how much I love her. I have loved celebrating my wedding anniversary for the past 17 years as it brings to remembrance God’s grace, that he would give me such a wonderful man to share my life with.Without these reminders I’m afraid I might easily forget the things that are important.2 Peter 1:12-13 says “I plan to keep reminding you of these things-even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth. Yes, I believe I should keep on reminding you of these things as long as I live”. What reminder was so important that Peter would spend the rest of his life repeating? The answer is found in the preceding verses.-Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and virtue with knowledgeVirtue defined in Greek means the quality of life that makes someone stand out as excellent. Knowledge simply means truth properly comprehended and applied.-And knowledge with self controlSelf control is to control the flesh, the passions, and the bodily desires, rather than allowing yourself to be controlled by them.-And self control with steadfastnessSteadfastness is the patience or endurance in doing what is right, not giving into temptation or trial.-And steadfastness with godlinessGodliness means living reverently, loyally, and obediently toward God.-And godliness with brotherly affectionBrotherly affection is a mutual sacrifice for one another.-And brotherly affection with loveLove in this passage requires the Christian to put another’s spiritual good ahead of his own desires in spite of how they might be treated.And if we do these things what will be the outcome? Verse 8 tells us: “The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”“Father, remind us that what we do with our lives today impacts those around us for tomorrow. Help us to be humble, teachable and always eager to learn while being sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Remind us daily that it is your divine power that gives us everything we need for living a godly life”. Amy Jo McCranie
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“Woman, behold, your son!” “Behold, your mother!”
Read the final words of Jesus. Think about all He had suffered, just before He spoke them. In the garden, sweating blood as He anticipated the agony of what lay ahead. The betrayal of His closest friends. Merciless beatings, severe enough in and of themselves, to have caused His death. Scorn from those, who just days earlier, had honored and praised Him as their king. The humiliation of being mocked, spit upon, and stripped naked. And finally, the torture of being nailed to a cross.Read Jesus’ words again. Do you see it? At His height of suffering, Jesus prays for the ones who drove the nails into His feet and hands. In the midst of His agony, He offers eternal assurance to a repentant man. He ignores His horrific pain, to insure His Mother will be cared for.
It is only after He has seen to the needs of others that He turns His attention to His own suffering.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Even then, as Christ desperately cries out to His Father, I can’t help but wonder if He wasn’t thinking about us. Are there any of us who have not, at some time in our lives, called out to God “why have you abandoned me”? Haven’t all of us been through a dry season and longed for a cool stream to refresh our parched spirits.
Jesus’ pleas are heard. His prayers are answered. And so are ours as He declares, once and for all…
“It is finished”
Nothing more to be done. Nothing else required. The demands fulfilled.
Final words, final assurance.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
To anyone who has ever stood by the bed of a loved one as they took their final breath, these are words of comfort. They promise us that He who knit us in our Mother’s womb is there, waiting to receive the spirit. These words confirm that Jesus has defeated death. We can have confidence that the spirit, having returned to the Father, will live eternally. In this final statement, we have God’s ultimate promise and our ultimate hope.At no other time in recorded scripture do we see Jesus’ humanity so evidently revealed. In the final hours at Calvary, Jesus, Who is fully God, becomes fully man. The One who knew no sin, became the embodiment of sin. Of all the horror of the cross, I believe this is the greatest.Seven statements from the cross. Parting thoughts. Thoughts of you and me.In Jesus’ last words, we can see the entire gospel message. The message of forgiveness, eternal life, love for one another, His righteousness imparted to us. It is a message important enough for Jesus to die for; shouldn’t it be important enough for us to live for? Knowing He did all this for us, how can we do less for Him?
Father, never let us forget what the Easter season is really about. Keep us mindful of the horrors of the cross and the sufferings we have been spared because Jesus suffered for us. Always remind us that even in His final hours, we were never far from Jesus’ thoughts. Above all, place deep within our minds the truth of the victory that was won for us that day at Calvary; and deep within our hearts a desire to share the message with those who remain lost. Amen.
A Love That Covers
Our bible study group recently completed the study of Genesis. I have read through Genesis several times during my Christian walk, but during our in depth study time I came to realize, as I always do, that God has more to teach me.The account of Noah has always intrigued me. How a man who lived during a time when rain as we know it did not exist, surrounded by a world of violence and depravity, trusted God when he instructed Him to build a boat. I guess that’s why in Hebrews chapter 11 Noah is presented in the “Hall of Faith”. Really, he’d never seen rain and he’s going to build a boat?We see one of many miracles in scripture take place. The lives of Noah and his sons along with their wives are spared as the whole earth and all its inhabitants are destroyed.Noah along with his family, go out from the ark, build an altar and offer sacrifices to God. A short time later Noah has one too many and exposes himself while in his tent. Ham, who is Noah’s youngest son, discovers him naked. When Ham leaves the tent he reports his father’s poor judgment to his brothers Shem and Japheth. We can know for certain the Lord’s disappointment in Ham’s decision based on scripture revealing the curse that Noah placed on Ham’s descendants. I love the way scripture describes the actions of Ham’s older brothers, as they are very careful in covering their father’s shame. First they take a garment and lay it across both their shoulders. Next they walk backwards to their father to cover him with the garment, and lastly scripture tells us that their faces were turned backwards and did not see their father’s nakedness. I always thought that the lesson in this scripture was to point out to us Noah’s downfall, but there is much more to learn. It was at this point in the study that the Lord brought me under conviction. I was forced to ask myself, when my brothers and sisters in Christ fall into sin or are guilty of making a bad decision, do I help to cover their shame as did Shem and Japheth, or like Ham, do I expose them for all the world to see? I am ashamed to say that after giving this much thought I would have to admit that there have been times in my life when I have been guilty of Ham’s actions.So then, what should our actions be in such a circumstance?I’m positive the answer is found in 1 Peter 4:8. Peter tells us that “Love covers a multitude of sins.” At this point, I feel we should really focus in on the word cover. Its Greek translation is “kalupton”, meaning, “to cover”. The second definition is “to hide from view”. This does not mean to look the other way, nor does it mean to ignore the sin. Imagine how much humiliation Shem and Japheth saved their father from. All I can think about is the love and respect they must have had for him.We are called to love one another. To bear one another’s burdens, to protect and to cover the shame of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Love will always seek the good of another. Our love is proved by our actions.Dear Father in heaven, I thank you for using this account in scripture to point out an area in my life that is not pleasing to you. I pray for all those that hear or read this devotion. Once again, I am so thankful for your Word and it’s ability to point out things in our lives that need to change.
New Stuff For A New Year
I have never thought of myself a pack rat, but as I begin to put away the great gifts I received for Christmas, I can’t seem to find room for them all. I have too much stuff. Not only do I have too much stuff, I have too much useless stuff. Just this morning as I pulled out my hair dryer from the bathroom cabinet, several hairbrushes and a bottle of gel came with it. My hairstyle has changed drastically in the past five years, so I no longer use gel, and one of the hairbrushes was totally alien to me; I can’t remember when, or if, I have ever used it. I told myself “I really need to clean out this cabinet”. As I opened the drawer to get my makeup, I found I had to move jars of wrinkle cream, and tubes of lipstick out of the way to get to the few products I now use. Looking in the mirror, I realized I probably should have used the wrinkle cream. As for the lipsticks, neither iridescent hot pink nor deep cherry red are really the best colors for a 60+ year old Grandmother. Then, there’s my closet, but please, let’s not go there.Clutter happens. If we don’t take the time ever so often to clean out, we accumulate a lot of junk. This rule doesn’t apply just to our closets, cabinets, and drawers. From time to time we need to go through all the clutter of our lives and get rid of those things that are taking up valuable space. Let’s take a quick inventory together. “Do I really need to hold on to these old hurts”? “What about this bitterness from a time gone by”? “Why do I need this anger that I’ve stored away all these years”? “This critical spirit, what use is it in the life of a Christian”? Just like my hair gel and the hot pink lipstick, these things are no longer appropriate for the woman I am today. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new” (CEV). The question then, is how do we leave the past behind and become the new person Jesus has called us to be?There is an old saying “out with the old and in with the new”. If we want to fill our hearts and our lives with new and better things, we must first throw out all the clutter. How do we do this? Paul tells us in the 4th chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians:
- Dirty talk
- Making God’s Spirit sad
- Bad habits
- God’s Spirit
- Peaceful living
- Hard work
And if I do all this, what’s the end result? What does it get me? Paul answers that question as well … we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. (Ephesians 4:13 GNB) As you say goodbye to the last decade and welcome in the new, I would encourage you to begin the first day of the rest of your life by reading Ephesians 4. Write Paul’s words on the tablet of your heart and strive to live by these great truths. If you will do so, you will find you are able to open the doors to your heart and, instead of clutter and useless junk, you will see Jesus.
Are you facing a mountain? Is your faith feeling shaky? Do you feel like you have no direction? Jesus tells us in Matthew that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed that we can say to a mountain, move from here to there and it will. While I know that could be taken literally I also believe that scripture overall does not teach that we can walk through life removing any and all obstacles. Sometimes the only way to get the mountain under your feet is to climb it. As a matter of fact James tells us that when, (Not IF BUT WHEN) we face these obstacles let it bring us joy for when our faith is tested it has opportunity to grow.
I do believe that the Lord removes these mountains, but I believe that we must not allow our finite minds to focus on the obstacles directly in front of us, but that we focus on the one that created the mountain in the first place, and the one who gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other. Praise Him for whatever you are facing, for even in the hard times you are not alone. The Lord is always teaching us to depend on Him; giving our faith an opportunity to grow.Scripture assures us that if we know Him as Lord and Savior that the ultimate destination will be the top, and that will happen when we see Jesus face to face. Until that time don’t worry about tomorrow, face today with joy in your heart, trusting the Lord to meet you where you’re at. Keep moving, Keep climbing, Keep the faith.Paul all throughout his ministry never asked the Lord to give him strength to walk away, but to give him strength to stay. Let us learn from that as we stay strong and keep pushing on and never stop climbing!Amy Jo
The Red Purse
Coming into my 60’s had a profound effect on me. It seemed that everything either sagged, wrinkled or just plain quit working. Aside from the changes my body experienced, I notice some changes mentally as well. Thinking more about today and worrying less about tomorrow became easier; after all as you get older, it becomes a fact of life that today is pretty much all you’ve got. And, I bought a red purse. Now, you would have to know me to appreciate what a big step that was. I am pretty much a black, white, and navy blue kind of gal so, purchasing a big red pocket-book was a bold move. Over the past couple years, that red purse has become like a friend to me. As constant companions, we have come to know and depend on each other. Like me, she is becoming worn in spots and more than a little frayed around the edges. Her zipper doesn’t work quite as smoothly and her lining is ripped.Every time I go out with my daughter, she mentions that I need to replace my red purse. “I like it” I tell her, “there is nothing wrong with my purse”. “But Mom”, she says, “the stitching is coming loose and the leather is worn down. It’s all worn out.” She’s right. It is all worn out. But in spite of how frayed it is on the outside, my red purse still serves a purpose. I can still put all my treasures inside with confidence that they will be secure. It still carries my eyeglasses, my phone, my tissue, my lipstick and a myriad of other “necessities”, and it rarely complains about the strain.We live in a world where the new and improved is mostly preferred over the old and proven. It’s like that with people as well. The world looks at those who have become frayed and worn on the outside and judge that their usefulness is spent. If they would just take the time to look on the inside, they would discover treasures. They would find a bounty of experience, wisdom, counsel; wealth that can only come from living.This attitude toward the aged is not new. As King David was in the later years of life and faced his son Absalom’s rebellion to take over the kingdom, David prayed, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Psalms 71:9).My Mother now lives in a nursing home with many others who, like her, have lived out the better part of their lives. She has advanced dementia and can barely speak in sentences. Her eyesight has failed so that she can barely see and her legs are so weak they can hardly support her frail frame. It would be easy to spend a few minutes with her and conclude that she has nothing to offer. I know better. All those years of living, learning, and experiencing are still inside her mind. Just because she has lost the ability to express her wisdom, doesn’t mean she no longer has it. I think back at all the advice she gave me through the years, advice which most of the time, I regret to say, I ignored. I wish with all my heart, just one more time I could ask her what I should do about a given situation. As I look back, I realize that she was right about most everything. I may not be able to ask her for her thoughts, but It’s not too late to seek her advice. I can simply look back at how she lived, how she loved, and learn more about life than all the world could ever hope to teach me.I go back to David’s words “do not cast me off…” “do not forsake me…”. His words were spoken to God in a prayer thousands of years ago but are oh so relevant to our culture today.I urge you to spend time with those who have actually lived life. Visit with someone who has gone through season after season and survived the storms that came with each one. Learn from those who have gained wisdom that came from their experience of good times and hard times.Start your own “Red Purse Society”. Seek out those whose leather is worn and whose stitching is loose; look inside and I promise, you will find great treasure.“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:32)