Thursday, December 24, 2015

Devotional 134 - Joy

If you have no joy, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere.
    Author: Billy Sunday

Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be light-hearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride.
    Author: Richard J. Foster

The aim of God in creating and redeeming us is the delight He Himself enjoys in seeing His creatures delight in Him. In other words, the purpose of the knowledge of God is the enjoyment of God because "God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him."
    Author: John Piper

Joy is the serious business of Heaven.
    Author: C.S. Lewis

Psalm 4:7 "You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound."
Psalm 21:6 "...You make him glad with the joy of Your presence."

The sun is out today as I write this. I make note of it because we have had several weeks of cloudy, dreary weather. I have had more than one person express their low spirits because of this. Rhett sleeps poorly and this affects his emotions. Charissa has some pressures with insurance companies and medical bills and this momentarily affects her happiness. I fret about past mistakes, and the ones in the future I have yet to commit, but know they are just around the corner.

But none of this is a good enough excuse to be joyless. Because weather does not give me joy. Good sleep does not give me joy. Material wealth and health do not give me joy. Sinless perfection does not give me joy. The Bible teaches that joy comes from the Lord. It comes from being loved by Christ and treasuring Christ. It comes from His glorious and wonderful presence in our lives.

Jesus told us right before He went to the cross that if we obeyed His commandments we would abide in His love, and that love would fill us full of joy. John 15:10, 11.

My prayer for you and me is that we would be so aware of our Savior that joy spills out even in our imperfect lives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Devotional 133 - Thank You, God

"Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy.    Joyce"

"Dear God, please change the taste of asparagus. It is grass. Thanks. Sarah"

"Dear God, Thanks for loving the whole world. I have four people in my house and I can never do it. Neil"

Psalm 107: 1 "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!"

I like waking up when it is still dark. I like the crisp air, even cold air when I open the door and step outside and take a deep breath. Some early mornings the moon still lights my way and other mornings are covered with gray clouds.

In the days leading up to Christmas this is my moment to pause with God and be thankful. Thankful for what? That all my prayers are answered the way I want? Thankful that I have health? Thankful that my family loves each other? Thankful that I am not alone?

 Yes, these are good things. But like the children above, if God doesn't answer my prayer, if I am surrounded by disease and turmoil, what am I to be thankful for?  Let me give you three reasons.

1. Psalm 118:1 "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good..."  We live with a good God. He is not moody like we are. We never, ever have to fear He will make a mean or vindictive decision in regards to us or the world. He is good and whatever He does is good.

2. Psalm 7:17 "I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness..."  "God is always consistently “Godly.”  God is not measured or defined by the standard of righteousness; God sets the standard of righteousness"... (Bob Deffinbaugh). He always does what is right. He can be trusted to make perfectly holy, just, right decisions for us and the world. As wars and rumors of wars occur we can be assured that He is working out of His righteousness even in this.

3. Psalm 107:21 "Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love..." A love that can never be lost is the love we have from the LORD. God's love for you and me does not depend on how good we are at loving others. We fail everyday at being like Jesus and yet His steadfast love remains. Isn't this something to be thankful for? Christmas love is a demonstration of how far God will go to redeem His people.   We should thank Him everyday for this marvelous, unchanging love.

"The way out of despair and loneliness is to give God thanks." Jonathan Bernis

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Devotional 132 - Anxiety

"Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God...All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God." Having a Merry Heart in a Martha World  by Joanna Weaver

Proverbs 16:20 "Who so leaneth on the Lord, happy is he."

Our pastor gave a sermon entitled "The Cure for Anxiety". He used the text, Matthew 6: 25 - 34.  I never tire of hearing these sermons. I need the constant reminder of confessing this sin of worry that so easily crops up.

In the Amplified Bible, verse 25 states "Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life." Isn't that an exact way to describe it - perpetually uneasy. It's like a drag on our soul, a thought that won't go away, a nagging fear. As Proverbs 12:25 says "An anxious heart weighs a man down..."  

When we are weighed down we are not fully experiencing the joy of the Lord. We are missing out on Him. We are missing out on life! Stop living like God is not trustworthy! That's what we do when we insist on coddling anxiety. We should rebuke it! Refuse it entrance into our thinking. We should say when worry threatens to ruin our joy: "Let God take care of it!"

100 times a day we should repeat: "God is in control". That should be our mantra. My God lives. My God loves me. My God is good. My God is in control. What should I fear?

Not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father's will as we read in Matthew 6:29. He has His eye on us and He is able to take care of things.

"Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in the earth, in the seas and in all the deep places." Psalm 135:6

We have a cure for anxiety.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Devotional 131 - Fear

"We have one, and only one, reason not to fear---the presence of Christ in our circumstances; but He is more than enough reason." Beth Moore Living Beyond Yourself

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."   Matthew 14:22-27

What do I fear? I am afraid of man's opinion of me and I am afraid of failure. As I keep my focus on Christ He can help me not to be afraid of failure in job, as a friend, as a parent, as a wife. With Christ ever present I can handle the distance of misunderstandings or differences. Jesus cries out to His men: "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." Why should the disciples not be afraid in so great a storm? Because their Lord, their eternal friend, the Creator of the storm was near.

Notice Jesus was "walking" on the stormy sea. There was no hurry or worry to His gait. What must that have been like? If I was unafraid, I would have walked leisurely also, to soak in all the majesty and power of the moment. I love the dark and rumbling clouds, the wind whipping my hair back, the spray of water on my face. The dark swirling pool beneath my feet and the great swirling sky above.  I imagine the water felt soft and padded around Jesus' feet. He walked because He was enjoying His creation, because the storm was His will, because He had a purpose which was being worked out to the smallest degree.

Remember this when I am tempted to fear.

What do you need to remember when you are afraid?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Devotional 130 - Free Again

"Oh what freedom, the Word of God and the love of friends."  Carol Totten

"How much more will the blood of Christ... cleanse our that we may serve the living God." Hebrews 9:14 

"Dear friends, since God so loved us , we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:11

I had returned from eight days on a tree-studded island in the middle of a cool spring-fed lake in Canada with a burdened heart instead of a refreshed and joyful spirit. I was ruminating like a cow on her cud about a mistake I had made. I had asked the Lord's forgiveness but kept getting the bad taste of the moment regurgitated back up into my mind.

The island was just as moss covered and fragrant with the smell of pine and jasmine, the sunrises continued to glow golden, the loons made their morning and evening music, the water shimmered and reflected the sun and clouds, but my heart wasn't free to enjoy it. My conscience accused me over and over. The last three days I saw the beauty with cloudy sight.

Not until I joined a few sisters-in-Christ in Bible study, right here in my small town in Kansas, did I find freedom again to let the joy return. 

Our study in Hebrews 9 clearly reminded me of the complete forgiveness of Christ. It is a done deal for all eternity. His blood cleanses my accusing conscience. It shuts up the whispers of Satan that wants to keep me chewing on dirt. Jesus cleanses.

And my friends...well they just loved me. They spoke encouraging words to me. 

Somedays we need to be encouraged by our friends. Somedays we are called to be the one who encourages. But everyday we need to replace our thinking with the Bible.

Oh how wonderful the Word of God and the love of friends! I pray you experience both today!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Devotional 129 - Just Be There

"The thing we must understand is that God did not choose us to "use" us....No, the Bible makes it clear that God created us because he longs to have fellowship with us."  Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World  ... Joanna Weaver

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1Corinthians 1:9

While on vacation with my son and daughter-in-law we began to discuss what it is that people do that make us feel loved. My husband and son like encouraging words. I feel loved when my daughter vacuums or my husband washes the car. Acts of service make me feel loved.

Thus it is understandable that I believe God feels loved by me when I do acts of service. Sometimes I get myself in a frenzy of busy-ness to prove my love and devotion to God.

But my daughter-in-love quietly said I feel loved when you spend time with me. She explained that I don't even have to be talking to her, just quietly enjoying each others presence while reading or crocheting. She shares best when I am quiet. that what Mary did when she sat at the feet of Jesus and just listened in Luke, chapter 10? God has called us into fellowship with Him. He wants us to be with Him. He did not mainly choose us to use us, though in His grace He does, but to have us with Him.

Wouldn't life be a bit more simple and free if the main thing I needed to accomplish today was to let my heart be with Jesus. What joy!

O God, help us to understand what a great privilege it is to be in your presence with a God who loves us, keeps us, comforts us, guides us, fellowships with us. We have been called to have fellowship with God Almighty. I cannot totally comprehend this greatness!

Think on this today and have joy in this meditation: "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Devotional 128 - Fruit

"To be sure, we are saved by faith, not fruit, but we won't be saved by fruitless faith."  Burk Parsons Table talk

Jesus said; "I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." John 15: 1, 2

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me." John 15: 4

I woke up this morning and before I stepped out of bed I had already thought three negative thoughts, worried about something, and used a sarcastic tone of voice with my husband. As a few more moments passed, I began to get my Christian bearings back and I felt guilty for my behavior. 

I had to confess that I woke up totally ignoring God. When I do that I let fear and anger dominate my mind instead of the love of God. So immediately I repented and remembered that I live by grace moment by moment. It was grace that brought me to the cross and grace that keeps me in the arms of Jesus. No matter how long I talk the talk, all day long I fail to walk the walk. 

I need Jesus! I need the goodness of Jesus to want to do good. I need the love of Jesus to want to love Jesus. I need the patience of Jesus to want to be patient. I need the forgiveness of Jesus to be forgiven. 

The more I realize my need for Jesus, the more my attitudes and behaviors conform to Him. ....not by trying harder, but by treasuring Him longer. 

As I treasure Jesus Christ, I will bear fruit, not perfectly, not without some pruning, but nevertheless fruit will be produced. Christ promises it.

"Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none on earth that I desire besides You." Psalm 73:25

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Devotional 127 - Listen to the Music

"We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music." Max Lucado

"And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Galations 4:6 NLT

"...through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit..."  Romans 15:30

Rhett and I were taking tap dancing lessons online. First the instructor told us the name of the step, then he demonstrated it, and after much practice, he added the music. We needed all of it together to dance. Without the music I was just a bunch of robotic steps that very often had no rhythm.

I do not have a trained singing voice. On occasion I have tried to sing a song, without music, to my five year old granddaughter. It always ended with a plea..."Stop singing, Nana."  I sing much better when I sing with music.

So to learn to tap dance or sing a pretty song, I need it all...the instructor, the example, and the music.

There is such beauty in the way God works in our lives. The Father gave us His precious Word to guide, direct and encourage. The Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, gave us His life as an example on living the Word out in the world, which included dying for us. The Holy Spirit is the wind beneath our God-given sails and the music in our hearts to not only know His presence and comfort, but to feel it.

Yet there is never a separation between the Father, or Son, or Spirit. All three are one, working together as one in our lives. When we remember this, we can have confidence that God's purposes for our lives will come to pass. How could it not, when such awesome power is at work!

The Holy Spirit makes what you know about Jesus come alive in your life. He lifts your heart up in joy and praise. He is the music in your life, the gentle breeze, the whisper that comforts and convicts.

You don't have to try so hard to be good if you will just listen to the music, to the whispers of the Spirit in our lives, the Spirit who wants to infuse our whole being with Christ.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Devotional 126 - Blessed Easter

"...the Aramaic word for "rejoice" is the same as the word for "dance", leading one to wonder whether Jesus was actually telling people to experience the joy of  living or to get into the dance of life."  Soul Salsa  Leonard Sweet  pg. 14

Psalm 33:1-3   "Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy."

Psalm 16:11 "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy: At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

Spring always brought tornadoes to the Kansas prairies. When I was little my parents would send all of us kids to the storm cellar while they stood outside at the top of the stairs like sentinels scanning the sky. We children sat deliciously huddled in the dark looking up and out the cellar door as the black sky boiled and twisted above. But none of us were afraid or sad because our mother and father were near and treated it as an adventure. We were happy during a storm because we trusted those who were near to take care of us.

Isn't that what this Psalm is about?  Even in a crisis, we can still always find ways to joy because we trust in His presence.

In His presence is fullness of joy even when the sky is dark.

Oh lovely, blessed Easter...a time to rejoice, a time to dance! Even when a storm blows in, the resurrected Lord is always there. His blood has served the sentence passed by the Father for my crime. I was under a death sentence and my dear Savior paid the full penalty for my crime by His own blood. His resurrection declares that He continues to intercede for me. This is a time to lift up our hands in grateful praise.

Rejoicing in the Lord can take many different forms -smiling, singing, playing instruments, painting, speaking words of adoration, hugging my kids, cooking a good meal, forgiving and asking forgiveness....and dancing.

Obedience to Christ includes rejoicing in Him. 

How are you doing in the "joy" department?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Devotional 125 - March Madness

Daniel 4:30 The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?"

"...constantly thinking little of ourselves is still thinking constantly of ourselves."  Beth Moore

Do you know what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar after making the "I am great" statement above? He went completely mad. He was driven out into the field with the beasts, eating grass like an ox. "His hair grew like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws."  Daniel 4:33

We all know as Christians that pride is sin because it takes our eyes off of Jesus and on to ourselves. "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, pride and arrogance..." Proverbs 8:13. We have read that pride comes before a fall. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18 

But it was an eye-opener to me the day I was in the pit and moaning about my failings, that my husband pointed out the pride involved in feeling inferior.
"Really? How so?" I questioned. "I hate myself right now. How could that be pride?"

"Because," he said, "it is still about you."  Once again in my obsessive lowly thoughts about myself I was still taking my eyes off of Jesus. 

Beth Moore, author and speaker, wrote: "Nothing like priding yourself in hating yourself. Beloved, let's let this one sink in deeply: constantly thinking little of ourselves is still thinking constantly of ourselves."

Let us be women so in love with Jesus that He maintains a more prominent place in our thoughts than we do. My life is out of kilter when the focus is on me. God has a solution.

"I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever." Daniel 4: 34

Look up and praise!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Devotional 124 - God Bless America?

"God Bless you and God bless the United States of America." President Obama - State of the Union Address - 2015

"If you fully obey the LORD your God by keeping all the commands I am giving you today, the LORD your God will exalt you above all the nations of the world....But if you refuse to listen to the LORD your God and do not obey...all these curses will come and overwhelm you."  Deuteronomy 28: 1, 15

President Obama ended his annual State of the Union Address the same way as all the presidents before him.. Ever since 2010 He has ended every State of the Union speech with "God bless you and God bless the United States America".

We have been a nation so blessed. There is no other country in the world I would rather live in. I am thankful daily for the safety and freedom I feel living in America. BUT......

It ain't goin' keep on happening. Why? Because our national policies are in direct opposition to God's word. God will not bless a nation that opposes Him.

Our legalized abortions and our legalized gay marriages make our nation ripe for a God take-down. Our national policies are in a wrestling match with Heavenly policies and we all can predict who the winner is going to be.

Please understand, I am not advocating for hateful, ungracious behavior towards sinners (of which we all are). I am advocating for boldness to call behaviors sin that our Lord calls sin, because this is loving. It is loving to direct people to Jesus, to their need for forgiveness, to the great joy of being in right relationship with the awesome and beautiful creator of the universe.

Whether you are gay, or have had an abortion, or are greedy, or a drunkard, or in an adulterous affair; whether you are hot-tempered, or a liar; whether you ignore God, take pleasure in anything more than God, doubt God; or whether you think you know how to run the world better than God; in all these things the most loving thing a person or church can do for you is call you to repent of your sin and come running back to God.

"We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done." Romans 3: 22  New Living Translation

So when our nation legalizes sin and restrains righteousness by its rules and regulations, we can not say "God bless America", we can only cry out "God help us one and all!" God will abandon a nation who abandons Him.

"Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator Himself, who is to be praised forever. Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires."  Romans 1: 25, 26 New Living Translation

I don’t think it will be long–perhaps in my own lifetime–that we will have a President who fails to include the traditional “God bless America” line in his presidential speeches. In my estimation, this might, lamentably, be a more virtuous act than asking God to bless what our Union has become.  Jared C. Wellman - Pastor at Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas.