Sometimes it is the simple things in life that bring about incredible blessings.
I enjoyed watching God at work the other day after a light shower. To see the intricacy of water droplets on the flowers was a study of God’s creation and attention to minute details. If God can so beautifully decorate these flowers with drops of rain, how much more can He pay attention to our needs and desires?
I have recently been enjoying a simple book, The 30-Day Praise Challenge by Becky Harling. The author was diagnosed with cancer and begged God for healing. A friend challenged her to spend 20 minutes a day in praise. Becky wasn’t feeling all that thankful, but as she intentionally praised God, she began to experience new joy – and her relationship with God has never been the same.
Recently I have found myself struggling with seeing the negative more than the positive. That’s not usually me, so when I found myself falling deeper into the “poor me” thinking, I decided it was time to put Becky’s 30-Day Praise Challenge to a test. The first ten days were okay, good thoughts to consider, but nothing earth-shattering, or majorly life changing. I found I was struggling even more with negative self-talk. But by days 11 through 15 I realized God was meeting me and speaking to me right where I was wallowing in the pit of my own despair. And I knew I didn’t want to stay there.
So I began to earnestly dig deeper into myself. When thoughts of being excluded, rejected, abandoned, burdened crept in, instead of dwelling on them – I thanked and praised God for the fact that He loved me for who I am. I focused on God’s qualities and characteristics. God loved me enough to send His only Son to die so that I might have eternal life. Even though I didn’t always feel like it, I sang songs of joy and praise to God. I look forward to my time of praise to start off the day with God. I usually take away one or two words that help me refocus throughout the day. These words have been: Chosen, Beloved, Cherished, Valued, Prized, Saved, Forgiven, Provider, Precious and the one I go to most – simply “Jesus”.
Once I say, think, and/or dwell on the word “Jesus”, or any of these other words, they intentionally redirect me back to all that I have been blessed with through God the Father/Creator, God the Son/Jesus/Savior, and God the Holy Spirit/Counselor/Comforter/Guide.
God desires and encourages us to praise Him because He knows that our word declarations can be powerful in the spiritual realm. Declaring God’s praise is more than positive thinking. As we choose to rejoice in who God is and thankfully place our circumstances in His care, something happens.
- His amazing peace comes in and shields our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:4-7).
• Comfort comes as we recall His promise to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b).
• He strengthens and helps us right where we are (Isaiah 41:10).
God’s Word has the power to change broken hearts and lives when we take the time to listen to what God is telling us and to spend time praising Him. In the past week I have seen God blow away black clouds of negative thinking and fill me with praise and joy in Him.
I pray you will be filled with hearts full of praise today ~ Faye
Some days we just need to constantly remind ourselves that God is FAITHFUL – all the time! It is easy on the good days when things are going along smoothly. But what about the days when the kids are more moody than you can handle, the car breaks down, or a friend or family member causes incredible pain?
Speaking from many experiences, I KNOW God is faithful, but I don’t always FEEL it. However, resting and meditating on God’s Word can FILL ME ABUNDANTLY with the assurance of His LOVE and FAITHFULNESS. I may not FEEL it, but deep down I KNOW it.
Having a prodigal child can bring heavy emotions some times. I REST fully in the promise of God’s Covenantal LOVE and GRACE to get me through these difficult times.
Praising God through both the good and difficult times for His LAVISH LOVE and FAITHFULNESS and hope you can as well ~ Faye
We were blessed to spend time with family and friends over Easter weekend. The weather was absolutely beautiful in Michigan. Taking time to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection is always a blessing.
But something happened Saturday morning that I would not have thought of as an Easter Blessing. We helped set up and distribute food at a mobile food pantry. What a humbling experience. We pulled into the parking lot about 8:15 and were greeted with a line of baskets and boxes lined up and people getting a cup of coffee as they continued their wait. They often begin arriving between 5 and 6 am. During the time waiting for the Feeding America West Michigan truck, people are registered and given a number.
A semi with 5,000+ pounds of food pulls into The River’s church parking lot every third Saturday of the month a little after 9:00. Then the work begins in earnest. Volunteers separate the produce, drink, and baked goods into roughly equal bags for each person.
The River had been seeing approximately 100 people the past couple of months and with the nicer weather they expected higher numbers. By 9:30 there were over 100 people registered so we prepared bags for 125. By 10:00 when the food distribution began, there were 130 people lined up. We rearranged some of the food to make sure we had enough for all. Then people turned in their number and proceeded through the food.
I was handing out 10# bags of potatoes. I was so encouraged to meet the people. Many of them were so friendly and kind, despite their difficulties in life. Since it was Easter weekend I often said “have a happy or blessed Easter”. Many people replied similarly and some even gave thanks to Jesus for His blessings of grace.
Here were people, some who waited hours, in need of food. They obviously had been dealing with struggles of life. Yet, most of them were incredibly happy. Despite difficulties they were celebrating and counting their blessings.
My husband and I were greatly humbled by these beautiful people in need. The “funny” thing is we had been facing some difficulties recently with health, car issues, relationships and were trying to keep a “stiff upper lip”. But after spending time with these Easter blessings, we made a commitment once again to look deeper into each trial to see God’s abundant blessings.
It wasn’t long after that commitment that we would be tested to see how we would react. On our drive home from Michigan we had car troubles about 75 miles from home. Car problems on the interstate aren’t fun, especially in a rainstorm. We were able to get to a location where we could call our auto service. Blessing 1- we have 100 mile towing, so we were able to get to our own mechanic. Blessing 2 – there was a tow truck driver available in late afternoon to drive 150 miles round trip to get us home. Blessing 3 – the driver was a very friendly and upbeat person. Blessing 4 – we were able to borrow a vehicle from a friend. Blessing 5 – an indescribable calm in dealing with two cars in the shop (the first one was hit by a deer a week earlier) and a peace that filled us as we deal with a “frustration” in life. Blessing 6 – the care of friends and family.
I pray that you look at each day and see the beautiful blessings all around you ~ Faye
I’ve said in previous posts that Psalm 62 especially verses 5-8 have really spoken to me in the past year. I have decided to take up memorizing these verses so I can meditate on them day and night. All my years growing up in Christian school I was required to memorized passages from the Bible. I have always visualized the layout of each sentence and that helped me to remember it. Recently, I thought about the photos I post here and realized I could make it visually stimulating to help me with the memorization and recall.
One technique for deeper understanding of a Bible passage has been to read it over many times, each time emphasizing a different word. This has provided richer blessings as the meaning has soaked in from different perspectives. You may want to try that.
Something else I noticed is that when I originally copied this to my mirror, to begin and end each day with this reminder, is I omitted the word quietly. I know it is supposed to be there but on different days I may change wait quietly to intentionally, patiently, joyfully, hopefully, excitedly, humbly … the list goes on. It has been a good reminder for me to be completely focused on how I see God and how I interact with Him.
The next couple of posts will be from these verses. I hope you can enjoy time to meditate, memorize and be filled with God’s meaningful word.
May God continue to abundantly bless you ~ Faye
I recently spent a few minutes with a precious friend who was nearing the end of her earthly journey and preparing for her heavenly life. It was my pleasure to see her smile when we talked about her running through God’s incredible forests in heaven as she was an avid runner here on earth. Then, as I leaned in closer to her, I said, “God is so good!” She struggled to talk through the pain and medications, but she took every ounce of her energy and repeated back to me, “God — Is — So — Good!” How precious those last words from Sher were to me.
This morning while reading my devotions I was reading from Psalm 104 and came to verse 33 – I was so blessed to know that some of Sher’s last breaths included her praising God. I pray that I will have the same relationship with my Lord and Savior to have praise to Him be on my lips ALL of my days!
Praying you enjoy God’s incredible blessings here on earth as you prepare for eternity with Him ~ Faye
Another year begins with all its uncertainties, expectations and anticipations. It is another year we will need to decide how we react to life’s challenges and blessings. Blessings are obviously much easier to accept than challenges.
Living in the Midwest, it looks like we will face incredibly cold temperatures this weekend (-24° with windchills predicted -40 to -50°). This is the time of year we start hoping for Spring and the January thaw. We look at the ice on the river and realize that we don’t know what type of spring we will face this. Last year we had some flooding and with memories solidly in our minds from 2008 devastating floods we can easily let our minds dwell on worrying what will happen. We can become totally overwhelmed with the negatives even to the point of missing the beauty God breathes into the ice formations around us.
An interesting story occurred over Christmas. A Russian ship filled with 22 crew and 52 passengers (scientists and tourists) became stranded in the thick ice of Antarctica. Three icebreakers were initially dispatched to try and crack their way through the thick ice surrounding the ship, but all failed. After more than a week, the passengers were finally airlifted to a Chinese icebreaker by helicopter. The trapped passengers and crew had to stamp out a landing pad in the snow/ice for the helicopter to land. The helicopter had to make several trips to ferry the passengers to freedom.
Watching video clips posted by some of the passengers showed them making the most of their trial. They weren’t despondent; crying “where is help coming from?”. They made the most of their time performing more science experiments and having fun with their circumstances. WHY? They were stranded in subfreezing temperatures, away from family at the holidays and initial rescue attempts definitely were NOT encouraging when the first ice-breaker became stuck as well. They chose to enjoy the days filled with HOPE and JOY.
We all have trials we will face in the year ahead whether they are health, finances, relationships or whatever. I recently knew I would likely face the holidays without hearing from a loved one. In the past this has been a difficult challenge for me. During one of my devotional times, God placed the following verse on my heart from Psalm 62:5:
Let ALL that I am WAIT before God, for my HOPE is in HIM!
I have this verse written on my mirror where I see it every morning and several times throughout the day. I have taken it apart word by word, emphasizing different words and phrases. God has blessed me incredibly through these words. No, I didn’t hear from the loved one, but because of God’s assurance, I continue to WAIT in HOPE. I have chosen to HOPE as I WAIT before GOD. God is working in this person’s life and in mine. I will WAIT with HOPE that the work God is performing in each of us will be in accordance with God’s will and for His purposes.
I pray that God will fill you with His HOPE as you WAIT before God in the year ahead ~ Faye
It’s that time of year – Advent. Christians around the world look with longing, expectation, anticipation and hope for the celebration of the coming King of kings. We long to see the glory of God that the angels sang of when they heralded the news of Christ’s birth to the shepherds.
A few years ago I was blessed by two “old / new” words. They’re old because they are a Hebrew and Greek word, but new to me. I heard them in a message a couple of years ago, and they still follow me and fill me with wonder and awe. A few weeks later I read it in my devotions. This started my reading and studying them. Let me share a glimpse of what has touched me:
Kabod ~ describes glory (Old Testament). The Hebrew word kabod – “heavy in weight”; that which has substance or importance of a uniqueness someone/something possesses-beauty, majesty, splendor. (i.e., Solomon’s wealth, Samson’s strength, gold’s weight shows its worth.) “The glory of someone or something is what sets it apart in a special and inimitable way, in the same way the glory of a Zebra is its stripes; the Cheetah’s, speed; or the peacock’s, plumage.” [Schaeffer]
I’ve been studying the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle established by God when the Israelites were in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. The Ark of the Covenant was the throne of God. (Exodus 25:10-22) It was covered by the mercy seat and two cherubim made of pure gold were placed on top of it facing each other. The glory of the Lord resided between the two cherubim. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and come before the presence and glory of God. The Ark represented God’s holiness, purity and presence among the people. 2 Samuel 6:1-19 shows what happened to Uzzah when he didn’t treat the Ark of the Covenant with the awesome respect God required.
Moses had been speaking with the Lord on several occasions (Read Exodus 33). Moses prayed in Exodus 33:18, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” So the Lord had Moses stand near Him on the rock and as God’s glorious presence passed by, God hid him in the crevice of the rock and covered him with His hand. When God removed His hand Moses could look at God from behind and see His glory and live. Exodus 34:30 indicates Moses’ face was so radiant after being with the Lord, that the people asked him to cover his face.
Doxa ~ describing glory is the other word (New Testament). The Greek word doxa, – “that which is apparent, brilliant, radiant, resplendent”; (i.e., as manifested in the splendor of Solomon in all his glory Matthew 6:29/Luke 12:27). The glory of God’s attributes is made known to the world through the radiant splendor of His creation. We get our word doxology-the song we sing at the end of our worship services, being with God, hearing His word and so we sing our praises to the glory of God for who He is and what He has done for us.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
This time of year when we anticipate celebrating Christ’s coming to earth as a baby to save us from our sins, and even more His second coming, look for reasons to – Glorify Him! Worship Him! Praise Him! The Westminster Catechism describes what man is made for: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. “To ‘give glory to God’ means to speak sincerely and from the heart about the Lord’s amazing nature or deeds in such a way that it seeks to do justice to the reality.” [Schaeffer]
- A fabulous pastor in Hudsonville, Michigan (I don’t remember his name) at Rock Harbor Church I believe in the summer of 2011
- Do All to the Glory of God by David Morsey http://www.harvestermission.org/essays/allglory.html
- Easton Illustrated Dictionary:
Glory, (Heb. kabhod; Gr. doxa). (1.) Abundance, wealth, treasure, and hence honour (Ps. 49:12); glory (Gen. 31:1; Matt. 4:8; Rev. 21:24, 26). (2.) Honour, dignity (1 Kings 3:13; Heb. 2:7 1 Pet. 1:24); of God (Ps. 19: 1; 29:1); of the mind or heart (Gen. 49: 6; Ps. 7:5; Acts 2:46). (3.) Splendour, brightness, majesty (Gen. 45:13; Isa. 4:5; Acts 22:11; 2 Cor.3:7); of Jehovah (Isa. 59:19; 60:1; 2 Thess. 1:9). (4.) The glorious moral attributes, the infinite perfections of God (Isa. 40:5; Acts 7:2; Rom. 1:23; 9:23; Eph. 1:12). Jesus is the “brightness of the Father’s glory” (Heb. 1:3; John 1:14; 2:11). (5.) The bliss of heaven (Rom. 2:7, 10; 5:2; 8:18; Heb. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:1, 10). (6.) The phrase “Give glory to God” (Josh. 7:19; Jer. 13:16) is a Hebrew idiom meaning, “Confess your sins.” The words of the Jews to the blind man, “Give God the praise” (John 9:24), are an adjuration to confess. They are equivalent to, “Confess that you are an impostor,” “Give God the glory by speaking the truth;” for they denied that a miracle had been wrought.
- “Glory” – Dan Schaeffer – In Touch, July 2013
- “Life Principles for Worship from the Tabernacle”, Wayne Barber, Eddie Rasnake, Richard Shepherd
- Ray VanderLaan Faith Living Series http://www.faithlessons.net/
- Westminster Catechism
There are so many hardships, trials, pain and difficulty in life.
- Typhoon in Philippines creates horrible damage …
- Murder, abuse, assault, theft …
- A friend is waiting a week of unknown as test after test is performed …
- Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Heart Disease …
- Depression, anxiety, fear, worry …
- Separation, divorce, children in the middle …
- Abandoned children and families …
- Confusion over health care, politics, finances …
The list goes on and on. It’s hard not to spiral downward in hopelessness, worry and defeat. But Jesus reminds us of His continual love and care in Matthew 11:28:
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
It’s given with open arms ready to receive you. It is filled with unconditional love and abundant grace – Come.
The invitation is for those who are weary, tired, worn down, burned out, sad, depressed, brokenhearted, those who carry heavy burdens, great trials, overwhelming circumstances – Come.
The invitation is given by Jesus, our Lord and Savior – Come.
The promise – Rest, Calm, Peace, Serenity, Tranquility – Rest for your souls.
Take a moment to stop and breathe in that Rest.
Be filled with God’s PEACE.
Let the burden be lifted off of you as you Come and Rest with Jesus.
Praying you are filled with God’s abundant grace and rest, rest for your soul, as you Come to Him and give Him your burdens ~ Faye
What incredible beauty there is in God’s creation! In the past month, I’ve gone from enjoying His glory in a sunrise at the lake to walking through the plants at work and seeing the incredible detail on a crisp, frosty morning.
This summer due to a lot of circumstances, I have felt myself drawing away from God. After talking about it with a few precious friends, they each asked if I was getting out with my camera lately. I had to admit I haven’t. Not like I had in the past. I can come up with a list of reasons/excuses why, but really it comes down to enjoying the adrenalin of being busy helping others. When I reflect on that, I realize that I am missing so much of what I was created to do — The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Westminster Catechism) I have allowed myself to be so busy at work, in projects, in planning worship services, etc., that I have not had my primary focus be on giving God glory and enjoying/celebrating Him for ALL He has done.
Yesterday our minister preached from Isaiah 52 & 53 on how much our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, did for us. How He endured incredible suffering-mocked, whipped, beaten. Jesus, our Lord, bled and died for our sins. When He paid such an incredibly selfless price for each one of us, why don’t we take time to glorify God in all things? As we all heard the message we realized the depth of God’s love. From the beginning of the worship service to the end there was an incredible transformation in the people’s worship from enjoying singing about God to hearts being lifted up glorifying God in praise for the Power of the Cross.
We have so much to glorify God for from the beauty of creation to His unconditional love and abundant grace.
I grabbed my camera the day after a hard frost. Oh the joy of being blown away, being still in God’s presence and enjoying His glorious creation. When I look at pictures of God’s creation such as these, I often sing the following words, especially the second verse:Be still, for the presence of the LORD, the Holy One, is here. Come bow before Him now with reverence and fear. In Him no sin is found; we stand on holy ground. Be still, for the presence of the LORD, the Holy One, is here. Be still, for the glory of the LORD is shining all around. He burns with holy fire; with splendor He is crowned. How awesome is the sight, our radiant King of light! Be still, for the glory of the LORD
is shining all around. Be still, for the power of the LORD is moving in this place. He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister His grace. No work too hard for Him; in faith receive from Him. Be still, for the power of the LORD is moving in this place. ~David Evans © 1986, Kingsway’s Thankyou Music
The morning I took the photo of the sunrise, I was visiting friends. I was blessed to wake up before the sunrise and just wait in the peacefulness of the lake and wait for the sun to appear. There is such an incredible calm that comes during that time of waiting as the sky turns from navy blue/black to light hues of gold and the fog rolls in on the lake. It is incredible just to silently breathe in God’s presence and peace and even without words being said just glorify God for ALL He has done for us. God has blessed us abundantly with His creation, love, mercy and grace. We need to take the time to Be Still and Know that He is God!
Ever wonder WHERE God is in your life? Does He CARE? Does He KNOW what is going on? Prayers go unanswered. People betray and hurt you. Sickness affects loved ones. People die. Does it seem like God is totally absent? I’ve been there recently.
Since I’ve been in such a funk, I’ve begun taking a day away from work and daily responsibilities; a day where I spend several hours just in quiet with God. Peace. Serenity. Calm. I head to a local park. Look out at the lake. I take along my Bible, a journal and pen, and my camera. But most importantly I take an open heart ready to not only talk to God but to just sit still and listen to Him. Where is He prompting me? Guiding Me? Challenging Me? Reminding Me?
A week ago this exercise prompted the following thoughts about being a reflection of God to others through my life. I definitely had NOT been a clear reflection of God since I had been very much wrapped up in my hurts, my worries, my fears, my misery. (Misery does not love company, it just likes to fester and grow all on its own.) As I just sat and talked with God, I felt Him telling me to look closely at the reflection of the lake. A wind had just picked up and the crisp, clear reflection was lightly disturbed by the gentle breeze.
Is this what sin, misery, despair, grief, avoiding God, busyness in my life had done? Do these things disturb my reflection of God in my life? When the storms of life blow into us, where is that peaceful, clear reflection of God? As I watched, a motor boat crossed the reflection and really disturbed the serenity of the mirror image on the shore. The wake fanned out and spread, much like self-pity does. After a while, it took over most of the reflection and it took a long time before the lake returned to the mirror-like image of the shore.
I wondered – where am I in my reflection of God? I realized I had lost the shoreline. I had let every big and little disturbance create choppy waves in my life and God wasn’t being reflected through me. I was letting my worldly cares and concerns disturb God’s peace.
I was letting my feelings and self-centered pity create a disturbance in my reflection of God. I was listening to one of Joyce Meyer’s talks and heard God’s reminder, … don’t care how I FEEL. Remember – I am rooted in God’s love. His love makes me more than a conqueror. He loves me unconditionally. While I was still an enemy of the cross, He died for me and loved me anyway. God will never love me any more than He does right now at this moment.
I am not saying feelings are wrong, but I sure wasn’t remembering the core of my faith from John 3:16-17:
For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.
God loved me so much – He let His Son die for me to have eternal life. Why am I stuck in self-pity and blaming God for ignoring my life?
My faith had been in a deep battle with the devil, and I had begun to believe his lies instead of resting in God’s truth -
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. ~Hebrews 11;1
I need to continue to be fully in God’s word and presence. I need to be still and listen for His leading and guiding in my life so that I can be a true reflection of His love in my life and to those around me. I need to put on the armor of God so I can stand against Satan’s lies.
I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 15:12 where it says one day we will see everything clearly. In this world, “with devils filled that threatens to undo us,” we can’t fear if we are filled with God’s love, grace and truths. We won’t always understand or “FEEL” that God cares. That’ won’t happen until I am perfectly remade with God. But I do KNOW God knows and loves me always and unconditionally. Praise God!
Stay in God’s Word. Spend time not only talking to God, but taking the time to listen to what He has to say to you. Look for ways God is showing Himself to you – a call from a granddaughter, a monarch or hummingbird being provided for by God’s creation, a sunset, a song …
Praying God will fill your hearts so deeply that all you can do is be a mirror-image of His likeness ~ Faye
Do you ever wonder what else can happen all around you? It’s been a lot like that in my life circle the past month or so with more family and friends health issues than I ever thought possible in such a short period. One aunt died while two others are in hospice care, all within a week’s time. A loved one faces Parkinson’s Disease, another almost three years of chemotherapy to keep cancer in check. Others deal with cataract surgery, hepatitis, ostomy surgery, knee surgery, prostate cancer, prodigal children, financial pressures, breast cancer; the list seems to grow with each new day.
I went to bed early in hopes of catching up on some sleep but my mind just wouldn’t turn off. Different people and their cares kept running through my thoughts. I would pray for them and usually I can relax and fall asleep, but God had other plans – spend time with Him. Tonight, amidst all the concerns and cares that wouldn’t let my brain rest, I kept singing different songs, such as Jesus, Draw Me Close and I Stand in Awe of You. But it wasn’t until the words of this song came to mind, thank you God, that I felt the calm come over me as I prayed and rested in Him with all the cares and trials all around me:
I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
Every step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden’s getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eye;
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
I don’t know about tomorrow;
It may bring me poverty.
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion
May be through the flame or flood;
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
As Rich and I were reading devotions before bed, we read these verses from Romans 5:3-5a and James 1:2-4
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.
… when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
My response as Rich read these words was – “Enough with the endurance God. I don’t know what You have planned for us, but my character is stretched as far as it can go. I’ve got to be ‘perfect and complete’ after this past month.” I was kiddingly, but I am having trouble some days “counting it all joy.” There are times I don’t know how others get through each trial without knowing the hope that God holds us tightly in His grasp. Praying that you know the truth of God through the following blessing:
So abundantly blessed because God holds my hand – always! ~ Faye
I had the wonderful time last night to watch some of God’s beautiful handiwork. It started with a wonderful sunset followed a few hours later by an incredible light show just north of us. My husband and I sat on the deck for at least half an hour watching flashes of lightning bounce from cloud to cloud and the cooling summer breezes blew over us following a hot, humid day. As I sat there I wondered what God was thinking, doing during the flashes of lightning. Was He wiggling His fingers in the clouds just to create some enjoyment for us to watch? Was He having fun stirring up the electrical charges that were bubbling out of the clouds? Or were the angels singing His praise and tonight they decided to show it with light? I know those thoughts are trying to reduce God to human terms and there is no way that can ever be done. But as I watched the beauty of the sunset, the majesty of the cloud billowing higher and higher, the sun’s rays streaming toward heaven and then the incredible lightening show, I could only think of the glory of God.
I am reading John Piper’s book Desiring God and this morning he was sharing from Psalm 115:3 – “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.” All I could do was think back to the sunset and lightening last night and again ponder God’s greatness, majesty and glory.
This Sunday our pastor will be preaching on the stoning of Stephen from Acts 7-8. We are focusing the opening of worship on Acts 7:55
“Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”
These instances made me ponder whether my life is a reflection of God’s glory. For surely I may not see as clearly as Stephen as he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, but last night I there was no denying that the Creator of the universe was clearly showing off a glimpse of His glory.
Praying God allows us to open our eyes to see more of those glimpses daily. May God abundantly bless you ~ Faye
Quench not the Spirit
It’s the 5 year anniversary of a life-altering event in our lives. In 2008 the small town I live in had 423 homes, all of which were flooded but ten, by the worst flood our area has ever seen. We recovered from the devastation over time. And through it all saw the hand of God providing through the love, generosity and kindness of His people and resources. Looking back I realize the many difficulties we had to deal with and the emotional trauma caused by the devastation. Two weeks ago brought everything back as we prepared for potential flooding that could invade the homes and businesses of people we have come to know and love following the flood. The memories of mud and muck, the sickeningly sweet smell left behind by the flood waters, the mountains of wet, moldy trash on the streets, dinner from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, homes torn down because the damage was so great … I found myself exhausted from the energy of preparation and emotional trauma.
Exhaustion is a difficult thing for some to give in to. In the busyness of the urgent one often keeps pushing ahead to get whatever needs to be done done. This is where I found myself two weeks ago. Already tired from several weeks of the Spring rush at work and then faced with the reality of potential flooding and having to give more of myself when I was already tired. We were spared any damaging flooding, but then there was the energy to put things back together after we had pulled it all apart. While I was so tired, I let Satan enter into my thoughts and he wore me down with many destructive thoughts. Soon I found myself wallowing in self-pity, feeling all alone. As many of you know, this is NOT a good thing to do. I oddly found it easier to stay in this depressed state than pick up God’s word and spend time with Him. This went on for about a week and each day I found myself getting more and more depressed and surly. I was not fun to be around. I was moody, tired and complaining. I could have written a Psalm entitled “Woe is me” very easily.
Fortunately I listened to God’s promptings (and a very-wise daughter) saying get back into spending time in God’s word. Every time I sat down I picked up the Bible or a devotional book on Hope, Joy, dealing with difficulties – anything that gave me glimpses of God’s joys and encouragement. I turned off the television and absorbed Christian music. After several days of this I was reminded of the joy I have through Christ’s death and resurrection. I was reminded of the many blessings God has showered my life with. I was encouraged to remember and be filled with JOY all the time, in all circumstances. I saw God’s hand working incredibly around me in how different people crossed my path at just the time I needed them. I intentionally got out of my car before work on Monday and made a decision to be filled with JOY despite any circumstances going on in my life. When asked how I was doing, I responded, “Great, it’s a beautiful day.” I allowed the Holy Spirit to flow to every part of my thinking. And the more I did, the more I felt changed from the inside.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 says “Quench not the Spirit.” The New Century Version says, “Don’t hold back the work of the Spirit.” The New International Reader’s Version says, “Don’t put out the Holy Spirit’s fire.” The New Living Translation says, “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” When I allowed my anxious and depressed thinking to take hold, I didn’t allow the Holy Spirit to be my encourager, guide, comforter, or wisdom. John 14:26 says, …the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your lives, kindle the flame of the Spirit to fill you with all the fullness and joy each day so you may reflect God’s love to others.
My circumstances have not all improved, in fact, some things have gotten worse, but my perspective has thanks to an attitude adjustment from the Holy Spirit helping me refocus on God’s unconditional love, grace and abundant blessings. Praying you see God’s hand at work today in your lives and are incredibly blessed ~ Faye
I’d love to hear you share some ways God has been blessing you.
There are days where I get so distracted with the details of life I forget to really think about the abundant blessings I have been showered with. I have a warm home and it is DRY this year despite some heavy rain days. I am able to work full time because of medications that keep my R.A. in check. I have a wonderful family and two blessings that come in the form of granddaughters with their giggles, smiles and hugs. I have the assurance that I belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. I have a husband who loves me through the good and bad of life. I have financial resources that help me live a comfortable life where all my needs and many of my wants are met. I have the ability to sit quietly with God and just enjoying BEING in His presence. I have wonderful friends and co-workers.
With all the pain from the past week of the bombings in Boston, fire in Texas, earthquake, flooding, people finding out the cancer they thought they had is more invasive, people struggling with relationships and so much more. I look at the story of Job once again – everything was taken from him but his wife and his life. His cattle, oxen, and donkeys were stolen, his servants were killed or died, sheep burned, camels were taken, and all 10 sons and daughters were killed in a storm. Yet He remained faithful to God and God abundantly blessed Him with so much more than Job had before. Take the story of Joseph who was thrown in a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, ended up in jail and then ends up as the Pharoah’s advisor in charge of helping with the famine. He ends up being a blessing to all of Israel in this position.
Where we often see trials, God often uses it as incredible provisions of His grace, mercy and blessings. In James, God’s Word reminds us to, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I have to say that in most of the trials of my life I have NOT seen them as blessings or faced them with JOY. But God tells us in many places that He is working through our trials to help us grow deeper in our relationship with Him.
One of my favorite songs these days has been Blessings by Laura Story. It serves as a very real reminder that the trials of life are God’s abundant mercies shaping us for what lies ahead.
Praying you may be filled with God’s abundant grace, mercy and blessings in whatever trials you face ~ Faye
A couple years ago my husband and I took a trip out West to enjoy God’s beautiful creation in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. We were privileged one evening to spend time on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon watching the sunset. It is incredible to watch the colors change in intensity in the depths of the canyon as the sun reaches into its depths and then slowly hides behind the heights of the canyon. It was totally indescribable, magnificent! Photos are great to remember the event, but they don’t do justice to actually being there.
It reminds me of describing to a nonbeliever the incredible love of God. How could the Creator of the universe, know each and every person ever conceived? How can He know the number of hairs on our head? How can He write our names on His heart? He is totally indescribable! His love is beyond all knowledge or understanding. He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die and rise again so that we may be saved and live with Him forever in eternity – inconceivable, amazing love!
Paul desires for us to have the power to understand God’s unconditional love for each one of us even though it is too great to fully understand. In Ephesians 3:14-21 he says:
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
As much as it is almost impossible to SEE all of the Grand Canyon let alone hike, God’s love is so much greater. We will never fully understand it all on this earth. But oh the hope that fills this believer’s heart for the day when she will stand before God and FULLY UNDERSTAND the width and length and height and depth of my Creator, Lord and Savior.
May you have a taste of the incredible and unconditional love God has for you ~ Faye
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I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at My word. ~ Isaiah 66:2
I love the bark of these trees. They are shaggy and quiver in the gentlest breeze. They looked beautiful covered with snow the other day. Today as I was considering this verse from Isaiah, I was drawn to this photo. A simple tree seems to worship its Creator by the beauty of trembling and shedding its bark. Looking at comparisons, I realized the following: First, I too often approach God’s word without the humility of being before my Creator, trembling at being in the presence of His majesty. Second, when I am coated with God’s Word my own trembling, worrying heart is stilled by His love and grace.
This is a very simple, short verse in the Bible, but as I thought about it I wondered, Do I tremble at God’s Word? Do I read it with utmost respect and humility, ready to be changed by even the simplest words or phrases? We have all heard the simple phrase, “Be still and know that I am God.” That phrase alone can change the hearts of the busiest or most hardened person. It reminds the believer to slow down and intentionally BE in the presence of God.
I have been finding it harder to intentionally spend quality time with God. I rush through my five-minute devotional these days because of the busy schedule. I’ve been feeling these nudgings from the Holy Spirit to come back and visit God’s Word. It will give me strength, wisdom, perspective for the day if I don’t rush through the reading, but ponder and meditate on His Word. I’ve been rereading the devotional every day this week that includes this verse from Isaiah 66. I have been both encouraged and challenged in how I have taken God’s precious Word for granted.
I am too often flippantly reading the words and marking of my time with God on my mental checklist. Instead I need to remember, especially at this time of year, the abundant love God has for me that 1) He knew me before I was born and has numbered my days, 2) He has incredible plans for each and every day of my life, and most important 3) He loved me so much that He GAVE His only Son to DIE for me! He allowed His Son to suffer the depths of hell so I could receive His incredible gift of grace and be assured of eternal life.
Forgive me Lord for casually reading Your Word. Remind me of my inadequacy before You. Prick my consciousness so I am drawn back to spending time meditating and digesting Your Word for me each day. Fill me to overflowing with these precious gifts from Your hand.
May you be blessed to Tremble at His Word today.
A few days ago we had a beautifully, heavy, wet winter snow. It coated the trees and was inspirational. I headed out with the camera and was thrilled to once again enjoy such beauty. One of the pictures I’ve always wanted to catch was snow-coated trees with the contrast of the brilliant red cardinal. I was doubly blessed. It was breakfast time for the birds and there were a multitude of them at my friend’s feeder. There were many male and female cardinals that day – and I have multiple pictures to sort through from my adventure.
This morning I was reading my devotional from 1 Peter 1:2
God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
My mind immediately remembered one particular photo of a cardinal set against the snowy tree. The stark contrast was almost like the cardinal was superimposed on the tree. It definitely is set apart and stands out as a striking difference from the serenity of the peaceful tree. This being the season of Lent, Christians focus more often on the sacrifice God gave of His Son to die on the cross to save each one of us from our sins. Peter reminds us that we were chosen by God from before we were born to follow Him. When we believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ, we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit who guides us – our thoughts, actions and desires are set apart to honor God. As Christians our lives are to be set apart to honor Him.
There is an old song by Brian Doerksen – Purify My Heart:
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
I pray today that each one of God’s beloved followers may be filled with the Spirit to be intentionally set apart from the world to reflect the beauty of God in each one of us ~ Faye
I recently spent several hours walking through a Gems and Mineral show. Every aisle I walked I couldn’t help but think of the passage in Luke 19:38-40 where the people were shouting Hosannas to their king as Jesus road a donkey into Jerusalem during Passover:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Several years ago I read this passage and was challenged to look at it from the perspective of standing up for Jesus – being boldly willing to praise Him publicly and “be willing and ready to share the hope that is within me.” As I looked at the variety of gems and minerals, I found myself thinking these stones, in all their splendor, are buried deep in the ground where man has to work to dig them out, clean them up and polish them to see their beauty. Yet even if they were never seen by man, God created them to cry out His praises. Can you imagine the fun God had creating a wide variety of shades of sapphires, emeralds, rubies, fluorite, quartz and the list goes on? They were created from His glory.
How much more does He desire MY worship and adoration? He created us to worship and glorify Him. The Westminster Catechism reminds us the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We can enjoy Him through His ever-changing, beautiful creation.
As my friend and I continued walking, she said, “I can’t help but think of the description of heaven in Revelation 21. How incredible will heaven be compared to the stones we have seen?”
Sitting here amazed at the wonder and beauty yet to be discovered in God’s amazing creation, just on this earth let alone the universe. We are so abundantly blessed ~ Faye
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!
I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings
until the danger passes by.
2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.
3 He will send help from heaven to rescue me,
disgracing those who hound me. Selah/Interlude
My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.
4 I am surrounded by fierce lions
who greedily devour human prey—
whose teeth pierce like spears and arrows,
and whose tongues cut like swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens!
May your glory shine over all the earth.
6 My enemies have set a trap for me.
I am weary from distress.
They have dug a deep pit in my path,
but they themselves have fallen into it. Selah/Interlude
7 My heart is confident in you, O God;
my heart is confident.
No wonder I can sing your praises!
8 Wake up, my heart!
Wake up, O lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn with my song.
9 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations.
10 For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
May your glory shine over all the earth.
Funny – I read this first in the NIV version and it has the familiar word Selah in it twice, I didn’t realize it until I reread it in the NLT version where they had the word Interlude that it was there. But I don’t like Interlude. I like Selah. From research, it’s unclear what the Hebrew word really means, but from sermons and Christian education classes, I remember hearing Peace, Rest, Pause, or Reflect. It’s a break in a song – such as Interlude, so the NLT has the right meaning, but S-e-l-a-h just sounds like p-e-a-c-e stretched out forever; a long breath. I find these days that I have to really work to take Selah in my life.
As I was reading this Psalm I was thinking of the times I stand enthralled at the eagles. The eagles return November through March by the river about 1/2 a mile from my home. They soar majestically, often without effort high in the heavens. Verse 1 says, “I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.”
Recently, I was blessed to see an eagle high in a Cottonwood Tree and get quite close to it. As I slowly walked closer, I enjoyed its ever watchful gaze. I took 10-15 minutes to gradually approach the eagle. I felt like I was enjoying Selah with God and His creation. I was grateful to have my camera and was able to capture several great shots, including the eagle taking off from the tree and soaring away. As he took off, the shadow cast by his wings was huge. To be able to hide in the shadow of God’s wings is beyond comprehension.
To hear the Psalmist say, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth,” fills my heart with similar feelings that I get when I watch the eagles. The magnificence of the incredible eagle is inspiring. How much more should my God be to me? Like the Psalmist continues, “I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of You among the peoples. For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”, so too, my heart soars with quiet praise to my God and Creator.
I think the next time I enjoy an eagle soaring, I hope I will remember to take time and exalt God’s holy name above all things.
May you find time to exalt Your God and praise Him above the heavens for all He has done for you ~ Faye
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;He does great things beyond our understanding.He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ [vs 5-6 NIV]Then everyone stops workingso they can watch His power.(I love this image of pausing to look at God’s majesty.)The stormy wind comes from its chamber,and the driving winds bring the cold.God’s breath sends the ice,freezing wide expanses of water.He loads the clouds with moisture,and they flash with His lightning.The clouds churn about at His direction.They do whatever He commands throughout the earth. [ vs 7-12 NLT]
He sends the snow like white wool;He scatters frost upon the ground like ashes.He hurls the hail like stones.Who can stand against His freezing cold?Then, at His command, it all melts.He sends His winds, and the ice thaws.
The angel reassured them, “Don’t be afraid!” he said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today.” Luke 2:10-11
I LOVE reading the words – Don’t be afraid! They are written all through the Bible. But they are not easy words to understand and obey.
Can you imagine the setting? A peaceful, quiet night where the shepherds are quietly watching over their sheep. The fire is crackling. Sheep are probably pretty quiet with stomachs filled and resting for the evening. The shepherds main concern were wild animals and weather. When suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. And the first words out of the angel’s mouth – Don’t be afraid! Yeah, right!
We simply read Luke 2 as if it all took place during the period it takes to read the words. However, I’m guessing there was a little response from the shepherds when the glory of the Lord surrounded them. I would think it would take a few moments to let the shock of the angel’s appearing register before the message sunk in. But scripture tells us right after the angel’s message, he was suddenly joined by a host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Can you imagine? God’s armies opened the heavens to celebrate the Messiah’s birth – God’s predestined plan that He would send His Son as our Savior – EVEN BEFORE He created any one of us!! God sent His Son as His gift of saving grace for each one of us. That grace fills us with God’s peace.
These days it seems like there is very little peace on earth good will to men. With the devastating shootings in Connecticut, to international uprisings, fiscal cliffs, divorce, chronic illness, pain, death, loss everywhere you turn – how can God’s Words be – Don’t be afraid – I bring you peace on earth?
I discovered a burglary at work recently. It was very unsettling to know someone is desparate enough to violate someone else’s space and take things that didn’t belong to them. God’s Word is the calm I found after that. Man can’t reassure me that it won’t happen again, but God fills me with His peace and reminds me – Don’t be afraid. One of the visible assurances that I fell to sleep with the first night was hugging a stuffed bear I received from my husband many years ago while I drifted off for a restful night of peace. Hugging the bear reminded me that God holds me tightly in His grip. He doesn’t let go.
John 10:28-29 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
If our God who:
- Predestined (knew before hand) that He would send His Son, Jesus to be the Savior for all mankind – whom He had not created yet,
- Created the universe and mankind with a free will to choose to love and obey Him,
- Promises in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from His love, and
- Holds us so securely that no one can take us from His hand,
then His words should resound fully in our hearts - Don’t Be Afraid!!!
In John 16, Jesus assures His disciples that there will be peace – in Christ. Just before Jesus was arrested, crucified and resurrected, He shared these words with the disciples:
Then His disciples said, “At last You are speaking plainly and not figuratively. Now we understand that You know everything, and there’s no need to question You. From this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving Me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The peace from God is eternal. There will still be wars, death, pain, destruction, trials here on earth, but our peace comes from the assurance that Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and is reigning with God in glory. Therefore, Don’t Be Afraid!
I’ve been so blessed by the words of Laura Story’s, Blessings. She was newly married and her husband dealt with a brain tumor. She talks about blessings coming from the trials of life – What if trials of this life – the rain, the storms, the hardest nights are Your mercies in disguise. As the world struggles to cope with the destruction in this world, when we turn to God we will find our hope, joy and peace through His grace and love.
“When Jesus takes your hand, He keeps you tight. When Jesus keeps you tight, He leads you through your whole life. When Jesus leads you through your life, He brings you safely home.” ~ Corrie ten Boom
Praying that you may be filled to overflowing the the Peace of God that comes from the true meaning of Christmas ~ Faye
It is the season of anticipation, expectation, eagerness and HOPE. As Christians we call the four Sundays prior to Christmas as Advent. We are eagerly awaiting Christ’s birth. I started a small Advent Bible study with Good Morning Girls today and was reading through several Bible passages that they provided.
Jeremiah 33:14 says,
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and He shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
God tell us in Isaiah 60:19b, “… the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” We won’t need the sun and the moon for our light. When we have God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in the depths of our heart, we will be filled with a light that will never go out. We anticipate that promised light first through the birth of Jesus, which we celebrate at Christmas, and second for His promised return.
I love the verse in Romans 15:13 that says,
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
But it wasn’t until I started reading about the HOPE we have during the season of Advent that I realized, or at least remembered, that this verse of hope-filled blessing comes after Paul is telling the Romans that Christ came for Jews and Gentiles. Paul reminds them of the promise from Isaiah, “The root of Jesse will come (King David’s father), even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” Then Paul reminds those of us not born of Jewish ancestry, that God is the God of hope because He has promised to send The Way of salvation to all people.
As I read all these verses on God’s plan of salvation from the first sin recorded in Genesis throughout the His Word, I was reminded of an article by Patrick Wood, Beyond His Hand. Wood talks about Sacred Remembrances as gifts from God’s Word that help us in our daily walk. The Israelites had countless opportunities to remember the way God provided for them — parting the water, manna and quail from heaven, water from the rock, sandals that never wore out in 40 years, and so much more. These reminders could help shape the Israelites’ faith when they faced the giants in Canaan, but sadly the Israelites didn’t remember how God cared for their needs and answered their prayers.
During Advent we are encouraged to look back on the promises in God’s Word of the promised Savior. We often look at four key words – Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy in the countdown to celebrating Christ’s birth. This week is traditionally the week that focuses on Hope. Hope is defined as: “to cherish a desire with anticipation; or to expect with confidence.” As Christians we have the HOPE of a life forever with God where there is no more weeping, pain, destruction, chronic illnesses, loss of life, and so much more. We expect with confidence the hope of life everlasting through the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Wood encouraged his readers to focus on the Sacred Remembrances from God’s providence in our lives to help us in the tough times, the times when despair and hopelessness take over. We need to remember the time we took off half an hour late only to find ourselves sitting in an hour traffic jam as an accident that happened a little earlier was being cleared off the road. We need to remember God’s provision of medications that help deal with an illness. We need to rejoice in the friends and family that come along side of us to encourage us when we are struggling with loss. Wood even encourages his readers to create a timeline of your life where you definitely saw God’s hand over the years and let those “landmarks” help convince you of the confidence you have deep within from God. These Sacred Remembrances help us see not only what God has done, but who God is – faithful, caring, giving, loving, gentle, gracious, merciful, the Great Physician …
In order for you to have that HOPE that is truly an expectation filled with confidence that Jesus Christ has come and will come again, take time to read God’s Word. Put His truths in your heart. Dwell on the Sacred Remembrances of ALL that God has done for you in your life and in the lives of those you love.
I encourage you to take the challenge I will take for myself this week. Go to your Bible or http://www.biblegateway.com and search the many passages that have the word HOPE in them.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
Thanksgiving Day in America is filled with holiday traditions – time with family and friends, an abundance of good food, football, games, walks. It is often time together with loved ones. For some the day begins by going to church to thank God for all He has blessed us with. It was established by our founding fathers as a day that was set aside for us to give thanks to our Creator and God for the abundant blessings He has lavished on us from the material things to His providential care.
Dr. Charles Stanley was talking about our needs recently and said,
“Don’t be mistaken: there’s nothing wrong with having an awareness of our present needs. But too often we allow them to become the focus of our lives. The result is that our hearts become blind to the bounty all around us – a blessing far greater than blue skies, the beauty of creation, or the food it provides; something more essential than clothing, income, or a roof over our heads. It’s the provision of God Himself, and His constant presence among us.”
After reading these words I saw some of the news stories about Black Friday now becoming Black Thursday. I understand that some people really enjoy getting together with family and friends and hitting the early morning shopping sales experience after Thanksgiving. But it seems to me that we are focusing more and more on the THINGS of Thanksgiving and Christmas instead of the WHO and WHY of these two holidays. Thanksgiving is becoming more about time to spend money shopping for the perfect gifts and Christmas has become more about giving the right gift and making people happy. Those things in and of themselves aren’t wrong, but somehow we’ve lost the WONDER AND AWE of Christmas. We are focused too much on THINGS and not enough of God’s precious gift to us of His Son to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. Thanksgiving becomes more about strategies for what stores to hit and when in order to get the most bang for our buck instead of taking time to Thank God for all He has done for us.
Whether it is God’s providential hand keeping a truck from rolling completely over and drastically injuring the driver, or having a surgical procedure available to help an irregular heart become regular. Whether it is groceries dropped at the door of someone in need, or taking someone to a doctor’s appointment who feels like a burden only to tell them you’ve been in their shoes. You understand how they feel and are so grateful to be able to pay it forward. Maybe it is just the eagles soaring above you as you go for a walk under beautifully blue skies. Or it may be the hug you receive from your 9 year old grandson whom you never thought would make it when he was born at 2 1/2 pounds. It may be the peace of God in your heart as you meet with someone you’ve had conflicts with in the past and realize God’s grace has provided incredible healing.
A while back I wrote how worshiping God changes us to being more like Him. With the renewed advertising campaigns to buy and spend more and more this holiday season, it seems to me that Pastor Jack Hayford’s statement – “Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the one being worshiped,” is very true. Instead of worshiping God and being changed into His image. Too often we are worshiping the almighty dollar and the
happiness it might bring. If that is the case and we are worshiping material things, does Hayford’s quote mean – When we worship material things we are changed into the image of those things we are worshiping? Given the amount of advertising and news coverage over changing the shopping day and getting prepared for the holiday sales, it really makes me wonder. I heard of people who will have been camped out in line in front of a store in Wisconsin for a week by the time the store opens for the sale. Do we, do I, come close to having that type of anticipation and time for God?
I have been challenged to intentionally give God some serious time to thank Him for ALL HE has done for me. He has blessed me, my family and my friends abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. So much more than money can buy. I pray you are able to take time to reflect on and thank God for His love and grace He lavishes on us during this Holy Season.