God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
My reading focused on being in God’s will requiring that we wait for His timing in life. Sometimes we feel like we’ve been given a huge “ah-ha!” in our lives when we finally see clearly the dream/goal/vision from the Lord. We get all excited at this great plan in our lives and forget that we need to wait for God to walk us down the path to get there. We rush ahead trying to accomplish things on our own and only remember to pause when we hit a rough patch. As I was reading the accompanying scriptures this morning, one word stuck out. Selah. Continue reading
Romans 12:9-18 (NKJ) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord: rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceable with all men.
I know, long scripture today. I actually was only “supposed” to read the part about rejoicing in hope, being patient and praying – but this entire passage was so specific about how we should act with each other, I just had to include it all. Continue reading
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (The Message)
I say “thank-you” all the time. When I drop my daughter off at child care, if someone lets me in front of them in line, picks up a toy Donovan has thrown from the cart, or hands me a sugar packet I couldn’t reach across the tea-table. The niceties in life are always met with a swift “thanks”. But how often do I thank God for the blessings in my life? Not often enough. Even less do I thank Him in the midst of trouble. My devotional book is written as if it’s Jesus talking, a line from today read – “When you thank Me for the many pleasures I provide, you affirm that I am God, from whom all blessings flow. When adversity strikes and you thank Me anyway, your trust in My sovereignty is a showpiece in invisible realms.”
I recognize God’s overt blessings in my life. I’m grateful for my (mostly) well-behaved children, caring husband, comfortable home, for the career Zack has been successful in and that God allows me the freedom to be home raising my family. I cherish my childhood, the advantage I have as a mother because I had godly, loving examples for parents. My grandmother is taking my husband and I (and siblings, parents, cousins etc.) on a week-long Mexican cruise – I’m REALLY grateful for that! I’m supremely thankful for my good health and ability to use all my limbs. Which brings me to the concept of thanking God in adversity. I don’t know that I’ve ever done that. I certainly have never overflowed with thanksgiving for the struggles in my marriage. When Madison is being an ornery three-year old I’m not praising God for her presence in my life. When my dad started having heart problems, I don’t remember emoting gratitude. When I was told just after Christmas that my legs still needed another month to heal, I didn’t walk out of the clinic worshiping the Lord for His goodness in my life.
Griping and complaining rather than being thankful is a demonstration of distrust. As hard as it is for me to grasp, no matter what happens, God know what He’s doing. The application of knowing that is gratitude. For the good and bad in life, cheerfulness. I need to take a deep breath and be disciplined in displaying joy.
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NKJ) Even the youths shall faint and be weary. And the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
When I think of an eagle, I picture majestic strength and effortless power. Circling slowly in the sky, relying on the winds for their calm serene motion. This morning, I feel more like a much smaller winged creature, a sparrow- struggling to fly against the wind. Exhausted. Drained of my strength and just wondering how I’ll ever get to where I’m going. I didn’t sleep well, and absolutely just wanted to stay in bed today. But I know getting up before the sun (and more importantly, my children) is the only way I can have my time with the Lord. So, here I am.
Thankfully, God knows I’m here too. What a wonderful passage this morning. Reminding me (again) that trying to do life in my own power is just never going to work. It’s too much. But when I come to the Lord and trust Him for each day, my strength is in Him, rather than myself. Eagles are different from other birds of prey in their relatively larger, stronger build. Even smaller species of eagles have proportionally longer and more evenly broad wings, which give them more direct, faster flying. Eagles can totally fly on their own. But ,in all it’s might and power, an eagle uses the wind to ease it’s flight. I’ve seen bald eagles many times in my life as they are pretty common in the Pacific Northwest and I’ve never watched one struggle to fly. If I relied on God like an eagle soars, my struggles in life would disappear in the wind beneath my wings. Ok – I know…that was totally corny, but as soon as I read this verse, it’s what I thought of.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJ) For we walk by faith, not by sight.
People associate success with victories in life. We strive for a bigger house, nice job title or well-behaved children, but what we should really be looking for is problems, failures and weakness. When by my own strength, intelligence or resourcefulness I’m achieving great things, I feel like I don’t need God’s help. In the times when I stumble and fall – my dependence on His grace and mercy in my life becomes an intimate need, not just a casual fall back plan. The closest I have ever felt to my Lord was in the lowest of lows in my life. The times when I had peace resonating through my being were in choosing to turn my problems over to God, knowing that there was no earthly way to fix them. The growth that results from just letting go, from really depending on the Father to manage the details cannot be developed any other way. Unless I rely on Him, how can I tell others He is reliable? If I’m always “making it” without any real submission to God’s will, how am I a follower of Him?
2 Corinthians also says “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (verse 9) While it’s all good to be driven to the Lord’s feet in times of struggle, if we can come to a place of dependence on Him always, our lives would be so much more fulfilling. Sometimes I think we limit God’s ability to work in our lives in amazing ways, because we think we’re not good enough, strong enough or smart enough to go after big dreams. But that’s the whole point right? WE aren’t. But God is! There is no aspiration that’s too big for Him. No unattainable goal. When I’m in God’s perfect will and am striving for the seemingly impossible, I have the ultimate partner to turn my failure into His success.
Isaiah 40:11 (NASB) – Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
How hard is it to trust God? Not just when things get out of hand, but in the daily troubles of life? Today I’m focusing on God’s depth and breadth of love for me. I think that will help with the trust thing. Just like when my children were newly born, they could do nothing on their own. Nothing. But they inherently trusted me to care for them. There was no question that I would do anything in my power to protect and nurture their lives, because of my deep and unwavering love for them. God views me just like that. I’m His child. His precious creation. He loves me (as hard as it is to imagine) far and away more than I adore my kids. So, how much more, with all the power He has, will He care for and protect me? Intellectually, I know this doesn’t mean my life will be free of hurt or sorrow. In the moments of pain in life, I quickly forget to trust God completely. Because during those times, I don’t feel like He loves me. Perhaps if I make a habit of saying “I trust you Lord” during the ho-hum times, when I think I could handle it on my own, the pattern of consistent trust will become so intrenched in my relationship with Him, that nothing will shake it. When I view life’s circumstances thru the filter of Christ’s love for me, my heart is at peace. I can completely trust Him and rest in His love just like a newborn in her mother’s arms.
John 16:21 – A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
I started my devotional today reading a couple verses from John 16. Not the verse quoted above, but a passage about having peace in the midst of trials. Being of “good cheer” because the Lord is with us. (John 16:33) I’ve found the past few days in beginning a pattern of daily devotions that a couple paragraphs and a scripture or two don’t really satisfy me. I keep looking for context in whatever few verses go along with the day’s reading. Today, I flipped back a couple pages and read starting at the beginning of the chapter. Actually, I pulled up the chapter on Bible Gateway so I could read a couple translations at once. I love that site. Anyway, verse 21 practically jumped out of my computer at me. I have never read a verse that so accurately describes the feeling of wonder and joy after my children were born. I had no idea there even WAS such a verse! I went back to mark the verse in my own Bible, and found that it was already marked. Sort of. An area I’d underlined on the opposing page had bled thru so it looks like the part about labor is already marked. God is so cool. I’ve been wrestling with possibly having another child lately, and for mostly selfish reasons am heavily leaning towards a “no way” answer. But told my husband I’d consider it if he would consider being done. We’re in the “pray-and-seek-God” time of making this decision. I’m so thankful that God knows where I am, and is reminding me of the joys associated with children. Family members, calm down. This does not mean I’ve decided to get pregnant. Just that I’m allowing God to speak to me on the subject.
Begrudgingly, I sat to read my Bible today. I am grumpy. I don’t really feel well. I want to be taking a nap. Even better, I could be cleaning my disaster of a house, figuring out what’s for dinner, or tearing down my Christmas tree. Grrr. And what do I find? My devotional today is about settling my mind and not skimping on my time with the Lord. One of the scriptures used is Luke 10:38-42 – the story of Mary and Martha. For those who aren’t familiar, Jesus came to their house and Martha was busy with the hostessing while Mary sat and listened to the Lord. Martha complained, and Jesus told her Mary had made the better choice to be at His feet. Oh snap! She got burnt…and by Jesus no less. The New King James says “she had a sister called Mary, who ALSO sat at Jesus feet and heard his word”. This tells me that Martha too was (at some point) sitting to hear what Jesus had to say. Regardless of what chunk of time she was listening versus how long she spent in the kitchen, the point is, she was distracted. Not that she didn’t care to hear Jesus’s words, just that she was preoccupied with getting the bagel bites out of the oven. I always think Martha gets a bad rap. Probably because of all the conversations I’ve missed when people are in my home, all because I’m scurrying around making sure everything is done. So here’s what I’m taking from today’s lesson. There’s always tasks to be worked on. Mary simply decided that all the other stuff could wait. For the time Jesus was with her, He was priority number one. The Lord said (imagining Indiana Jones right now) she chose wisely. I need to make the same choice. God first. Not just first, but during my time with Him – I shouldn’t be distracted by anything else. The dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, vacuuming, working-out, baths and naps will be there when I’m finished. And I’ll be better equipped to handle them once I’ve had my time at Jesus feet.
Starting off the year with my very favorite verse. What an excellent devotional my mom gave me! Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I have always loved this passage of scripture. It is so comforting to me that even when it seems like there is no plan – like the world and my little life spinning around with it are completely out of control – God still knows what the purpose of it all is. And, not just that there’s a plan, but it is to prosper me. It’s one thing to have a plan, but if the plan is horrible pain, suffering and ultimate disaster in my life – that’s not one I’m very thrilled about. The thing is, this verse is in the middle of a letter written by Jeremiah (a prophet) to his people who’d been captured and were prisoners in a foreign land. The entire country had been taken from their homes and were being held captive among some really not cool Babylonians. The most interesting thing to me is that verse 10 in this passage promises release and the returning of the people to their homes — but only after they’ve spent 70 years as prisoners. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like a great promise to me. I think I would have questioned that plan just a tad. But God follows it up with a verse that essentially says “Trust me. I know what I’m doing. It’s good. You’ll see.” Even in the worst of times, when it seems like God has failed me, left me, or forgotten about me, His plan is still present. More importantly the plan is always working for my ultimate good. Fan-stinkin-tastic!
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you: not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. ” What a wonderful promise. How rarely I actually have peace in my heart. This year especially, I have struggled to have any at all. My mind just keeps rehashing all that is wrong, so how can I have peace? The world would have us think we have to be happy to have harmony and well-being. Everything needs to be just so in order for our hearts to have rest. But this passage reminded me that God’s peace isn’t like that. Despite what rages in our lives, regardless of circumstances, we can have peace . God’s promise of peace isn’t contingent on anything we do – it doesn’t hinge on the people in our lives being nice to us, or illness being kept at bay. It is there. Always. In the midst of trial, when we’re anguishing over difficult decisions, God’s overwhelming peace can bring wholeness and rest to our lives.