Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Boring Unimportant Tuba

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of
many parts; and though all its parts
are many, they form one body.
So it is with Christ.”
I Corinthians 12:12 (NIV)


Although my grandson Noah didn’t realize it, he taught me a great lesson about the role each Christian has as part of the body of Christ.  

I picked him up from school and as he was loading his tuba in my car, he commented “Ya know, Grandma. The tuba really doesn’t seem like it can do much. A note here. A note there.  Some people might think it’s kinda boring and not very important.”

I smiled. “No, I don’t imagine that the sound of the tuba by itself seems very exciting.”  He shook his head. “No, it doesn’t. But it has a unique sound. And the thing is,” he continued, “when the tuba and all the other instruments are being played together, the outcome is amazing!”

Is that not the perfect description of the body of Christ working together to share Him with everyone around us? By ourselves we may not think our talent is of any value. But combine it with the gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ and we become bonded together with one extremely important focus: being the example of Jesus in a world that does not know Him.

Our Scripture from I Corinthians 12:12 addresses that very concept. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” There is much to learn here.

First, just like the tuba, no matter how insignificant we think our contribution is to the Lord, He considers it to be a special part of the whole – His body. Our gifts and talents are different, yes, but they can all be used for Him.

For example, I may not speak in front of large groups but I can visit one on one with those in the local nursing home. While I am not able to be a missionary in a foreign country as some do, I can share Jesus with those around me who do not know Him.

Even though obligations may keep me from going to areas destroyed by floods and hurricanes, I can help load a semi with badly needed items that people are desperate to have. And despite the fact that I may not be able to play a note on the piano, I can write a note of encouragement to someone who is struggling.

Secondly, each band instrument has its own sound by itself and that sound is just fine. But when they are all played together in harmony, the result is a beautiful piece of music.

In the same way, the members of the body of Christ must work together with their unique talents to share Jesus with everyone around them.

So a boring, unimportant tuba? Not at all. And neither is the talent that the Lord has gifted you as His child.

When we work together, the result is a masterpiece for the Master.

Father, thank you for gifting each of us with different ways to share you with the world. Help us to work together as one body in all that we do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up

Reflect
  • Do you ever feel that your gift from the Lord is not as important as someone else’s gift and can’t really be of value?

Application
  • Journal all the ways you can serve those around you as part of the body of Christ.

  • Invite Christian sisters to your home. Write down each person’s gifts and talents along with ways to work together to show Jesus to those around you.

Power Verses
  • I Corinthians 12:12 (NIV) “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

  • I Corinthians 12:27 (NIV) “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

  • Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

  • Psalm 133:1 (NIV) “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

  • Matthew 18:20 (NIV) “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” 


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hidden Danger

“Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.”
Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

It never occurred to me that my husband’s favorite hobby, coon hunting, could be dangerous. He mentioned that to me one evening and I couldn’t help myself. “How?” I asked him. “When the raccoon chases YOU instead of the other way around?” I joked.

He smiled. “Very funny, but no. There are wells on old properties that are covered with vines and branches. You have no idea they are there until you step into one. It’s kind of like having hidden traps everywhere. And you don’t know how deep they are, either, so you can never let down your guard and just walk through a field. You have to constantly be watching.”

Intrigued, I asked “So how do you keep from falling in one?” He replied “You have to always keep your light on to watch where you step.”

Not long after that conversation he came home from a hunt and told me he had fallen into a well. Shaken, I immediately asked “Are you okay? What happened?”

“I turned off my light for just a second and my foot stepped right into a well. The good thing was that as I fell, I grabbed two huge vines that had grown down into it and I was able to pull myself out.”

He raised his hand up as I started to comment: “And before you ask, yes, I kept my light on the rest of the hunt.”

I wonder if David was thinking about stepping into hidden danger when he wrote Psalm 119:105. It says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  

David knew that evil men were all around him, hoping that he would not keep his guard up and would fall into a “well” of danger, a snare that would trap him. But David understood the only way he could keep out of the traps they set was to keep his focus on the Lord, no matter what he faced.

How do we measure up, I wonder? Because Satan sets traps all around us every day. If we do not keep our eyes on the Lord and stay in His Word, we can fall into hidden wells, too.

Misplaced pride, envy, resentment, choosing happiness over joy, collecting things this world offers, and lust for what others have are subtly placed in our lives – our paths – every day by Satan.  

Oh, he does a good job of disguising them with half-truths and deceptions but make no mistake, every single one can catch us off guard and snare us if we start believing we can walk wherever we want without keeping the Light on with every step.

Don’t be deceived by the enemy. Keep the Light on in your life to avoid all the wells of hidden danger.   

Father, keep my eyes focused on you so that I can avoid everything Satan places in my path to try to trap me. My strength comes from you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up

Reflect
  • Do you find yourself more focused on the Lord or are you falling into hidden “wells” of danger more frequently?

  • Are you in the Word every day?

Application
  • Journal a list of every time in the last two weeks you have taken your eyes off the Light of the Lord and have fallen into a hidden “well”.

  • Beside each entry in your journal, write a Scripture that encourages you to stay focused on the Lord. Use today’s Power Verses also.

  • Ask a prayer warrior friend to hold you accountable and pray together weekly.

Power Verses:
  • Psalm 119:105 (NIV) “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” 

  • Psalm 25:15 (NIV) “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.”

  • Proverbs 3:26 (NIV)  . . . for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”

  • II Timothy 2:26 (NIV) “. . . and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

  • I Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Listen for the Voice

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone
hears my voice and opens the door, I will
come in and eat with him,
and he with me.”
Revelation 3:20 (NIV)


            The crowd coming out of the church auditorium was especially talkative one Sunday morning several years ago. Hundreds of voices with different pitches, tones and accents joined together in laughter and friendly chatter throughout the foyer and down the hallways.

            Suddenly, in the middle of all the commotion, one voice instantly caught my attention. It was a sweet little voice quietly calling over and over “Gaamaa! Gaamaa! I’s here. I’s coming!”

            I quickly knelt down among the sea of people and saw the source of that voice. My two-year old granddaughter Ella. She had seen me in the crowd and was calling my name, trying to get my attention.

            How did I recognize Ella’s voice out of all the others? After all, she wasn’t screaming or yelling. It’s simple. I spent time with her because I loved her. I listened to her tell me stories she had made up. I was familiar with her voice because I heard it almost daily.

            Let me ask you something: isn’t that the way we should be when it comes to the Lord? If we spend time with Him daily, it should not be hard to recognize His voice in this loud, screaming world that demands our attention.

            Today’s Scripture from Revelation 3:20 is very clear in what it says and what it doesn’t say. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

            It doesn’t say that Jesus is beating on the door of your heart. He isn’t demanding to be heard. He isn’t threatening you if you don’t answer.

What it does say is that He is simply standing quietly and knocking as he waits for you to hear His voice and open your life up to Him.

            Something else occurred to me. Jesus doesn’t say that He only knocks at the door on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He doesn’t whisper your name on Sunday mornings and leave you on Sunday evenings.

He never ever stops calling your name! He stands, waiting for you to give Him permission to live in your heart.  And when you open the door, He never leaves. Ever.

            The only way we will recognize the voice of the One standing at the door and calling us is to be in His word – every day. And as we seek Him, His voice will become more clear in our lives and the distractions of the world will fade away.

Listen for the voice of Jesus – you can hear it!

Father, I can get so distracted by the voices of this world. I want to hear you first and foremost over everything else. Please help me to find time to meet you in your word. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up

Reflect
·        Have you ever felt like you could not hear the voice of the Lord in your heart because the demanding voices of the world were louder?

Application
·        Journal all the voices of the world that crave your attention.
·        Make a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the quietest and 10 being the loudest voice. Rank each worldly voice along with the voice of the Lord.
·        Determine which voice has the power to change your life for the better. Then throw out all the competition and focus on the Truth from the one who stands at the door and quietly knocks.

Power Verses
·        Revelation 3:20 (NIV) “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

·        John 10:27 (NIV) “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

·        Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV) “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

·        Psalm 5:3 (NIV) “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

·        Psalm 91:15 (NIV) “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”




Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Would Ya Take Less?

“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those
who hear the word of God
and obey it.’”
Luke 11:28 (NIV)

I recognized her the instant she walked up to my house. She was quite familiar to me; in fact, she was quite familiar to every person in my town who had ever had a garage sale.

Although she didn’t realize it, she was called the “Would Ya Take Less” lady. The reason? No matter what price you had on anything at your sale, she always ALWAYS asked if you would take less for every item she wanted.

It didn’t matter the price. An item could be marked as low as a quarter and she would ask if you would take ten cents for it.

That put you in a quandary. If you said “no” you would appear to be greedy. If you said “yes,” that opened up everything in your entire garage sale to her question again and again. Always trying for a deal, always looking for a bargain. That was the “Would Ya Take Less” lady.

As I was preparing for yet another garage sale, the “Would Ya Take Less” lady came to mind. And I wondered: do I ever do that with God? Do I ever offer Him less than what He is asking? Do you?

For example, in Mark 12:31 Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. What is our response? “Absolutely, Lord, I’ll do my best” or do we say “Lord, have you seen what I have to put up with next door? How about I just try to tolerate them?”

God states clearly in Exodus 20:14 that we are not to commit adultery. Do we honor His command concerning marriage or do we think “I know God wants me to be happy and I’m not. So I won’t leave my marriage but I’ll look for happiness somewhere else.”

In Ephesians 4:26 the writer Paul says that we should not let the sun go down while we are angry; in other words, apologize quickly and work out the situation. So do we apologize to our spouse for what was said or compromise God’s word by deciding to apologize – but not for a day or two?

Maybe we don’t actually ask God if we can bargain and give Him less than what He is asking but isn’t that really what we are doing?

We feel the nudging in our hearts. We know without a doubt what the Lord wants us to do. And yet we try to bargain with Him, as if we are the ones in control and God is simply giving us suggestions.

What if Jesus did that same kind of bargaining with us? II Corinthians 5:15 says that Jesus “died for all.” But what if He were to say to us: “I know Scripture says I died for everyone but I’m not too crazy about the depressed or angry or poor so let’s just change it to say I died for some.” Would that be okay with you?

Would ya take less, God? May we never ever ask that question of the One who gave absolutely everything for all of us on the cross.

Father, I know that I am guilty of wanting to do things my way instead of your way. Forgive me for picking and choosing the parts of your Word that I want to follow. Help me to give you my all and nothing less. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up

Reflect
·        Can you think of a time when you knew exactly what God’s Word said but you tried to bargain with Him instead of obeying?

Application
·        Journal decisions in the last week that you have made and write Scripture beside each one that shows whether or not you are in God’s will.

·        If you are doing less than what the Lord has commanded or ignoring His Word, repent before Him and begin again to be obedient.

Power Verses
·        Luke 11:28 (NIV) “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”

·        James 1:22 (NIV) “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

·        John 14:23 (NIV) “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

·        John 14:15 (NIV) “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

·        Psalm 119:105 (NIV) “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.” 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reality Check: Who’s In Control?


“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom
shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

 “He’s going to college, Lord…COLLEGE!!!! What if he meets the wrong people? What if he doesn’t study and loses his scholarship? What if someone hits him over the head and takes his money? What if he doesn’t match the right shirt with the right pair of jeans?

What if? What if? What if? What if?  Calm and reason gave way to unreasonable in a matter of seconds. Ever been there?

Well, I was. Our oldest, our son, was heading to a college only about 40 miles away. But to me it might as well have been across the country, the sea, and on a completely different continent.  

I realized that I was worrying and fearful, but isn’t that on a mother’s job application? “Must be able to worry and be fearful on demand.” However, something happened…the worry and fear that I entertained occasionally with a cup of tea and two cookies became a never-ending eight-course meal.

I was unable to do anything without those two sins (and they ARE sins) popping up in my mind. I had gotten to the point of allowing common sense and sanity to be overrun with what could be called an obsession with our son leaving when the Lord decided He had had enough.

One evening I was praying about my son moving away from home when the Lord spoke quietly but firmly to my heart: “Nancy, I’ve checked and the college he is going to is within my territory. It’s on my beat. It’s on my shift. I do not need a map. I KNOW where it is, Nancy. And I love him more than you will ever know.” Talk about a reality check!

It was easy for me to trust the Lord with my son’s life when he was right in front of me and living in my house. But the minute I saw that he was going to be out of my control, I lost control and became a maniac.

Every Scripture that I had memorized about a Father Who is in control and who knows all things and who takes care of us and protects us was replaced with doubt and a franticness that threatened to consume me.
  
What had happened? I had allowed Satan to creep in and steal my confidence in my Father. Instead of praising the Lord and asking Him to guide and direct my son as he moved in a new direction in his life, I focused on the situation and not on the Source of strength and power.

Instead of realizing that no matter where my son is, my Father is in complete control, I had somehow thought that I was the one in control and that my son’s success or failure in life would solely depend on his living under my roof where I could keep an eye on his every move and every decision.  

I immediately kneeled and asked my Father to forgive me for not trusting His plan and protection for my son’s life. My heart cried out “He is yours, Father. You have entrusted him to me for this time on earth and I trust You to do Your will in his life.”  

Would you believe that my son did just fine at college? He did. Would you believe that the Lord watched over him and directed his path? In every way, yes. And would you believe that Satan still occasionally tried to sneak fear and worry into my thoughts?

Oh, yes, he tried. But each time Satan whispered his lies, I focused on a Father who says in Isaiah 43:1 “. . . Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

God knows my son’s name and He knows your name, too. He is a Father who wants to take care of us, His children, and to direct our lives as we face new challenges and circumstances every day.

I encourage you to hand every situation in your life to the One who is in control of heaven and earth, sky and sea, and yes, of your life and mine. The Creator does not need directions to your home. He simply needs permission to enter your heart and take control.

Father, you are in control of all things. Forgive me for forgetting that nothing happens in my life that does not first pass through your hands. Help me to daily give you everything in my life and trust you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

R.A.P. it up

Reflect
  • What is your first reaction when you feel you are not in control of a situation? Is it worry and fear or prayer and trust?

Application
  • Before getting out of bed every morning, pause for two minutes and give the Lord your day and everything in it. Ask Him to help you to trust Him to handle whatever comes your way and praise Him for His answers.

  • Ask a prayer warrior to hold you accountable when you begin to worry over problems instead of placing them at the feet of Jesus.


Power Verses
  • Psalm 27:1 (NIV) “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”

  • Matthew 6:33-34 (NIV) “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

  • Philippians 4:6 (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

  • I Peter 5:7 (NIV) “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”


  • I Corinthians 16:13(NIV) “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”  

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Chain-breaker

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them
from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and
the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”
Psalm 107:13-14 (NIV)

            It’s not a sight that you see every day – people in identical orange short-sleeved coveralls shuffling along the sidewalk – but you see it in my town. They make their way from the jail to the courthouse and then back to the jail periodically.

 Their pace is painfully slow. Chains and shackles keep them from moving any faster.  Their heads are down as they struggle to make sure they are not stepping on the person in front and at the same time not getting stepped on by the person walking behind them.

Watching this procession, you cannot help but wonder why each one had been arrested and detained. But you also find yourself wondering how it must feel to take every step chained and shackled.

No freedom to dance or jump or even turn.  But rather, every movement held in place by metal links locked together to restrain the person wearing them.

And then I look at my life. No orange coveralls. Nothing on my arms and legs restricting me. And yet I too find myself in chains.

Can I name a few? Fear, anger, envy, loneliness, depression, greed, infidelity, jealousy, resentment, addictions, worry, unforgiveness. That’s the short list. Need I go on?

We have all experienced at least one of those “chains.” They can rob us of our ability to function daily because they steal our joy and, if we are not careful, consume our every thought and action to the point that our very faith and trust in the Lord is crippled!

Today’s Scripture speaks directly to breaking those “chains.” We cannot do it on our own. Psalm 107:13-14 says Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”

Are “chains” holding you tightly and robbing you of joy and hope and peace? Every single one can be broken to pieces by giving them to Jesus, the only true Chain-breaker!

I encourage you to talk with a prayer warrior friend, a counselor or minister and share what “chains” are wrapped around your heart and holding you hostage. Then go before the Lord and ask Him to free you from each one and replace them with mercy and forgiveness and love.

Today, this very minute, trust the Chain-breaker to do what He says He will do.


Father, there are chains in my life that are keeping me in darkness. Please take them from my heart and replace them with you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up

Reflect
·                          What “chains” in your life are keeping you from experiencing joy, peace and mercy from the Lord?

Application
·                          Journal every “chain” in your life – past and present – that is holding you prisoner.
·                          Meet the Lord face to face during your prayer time and hand over each “chain” to Him.
·                          Thank Him for freeing you and replacing each one with His love, mercy and forgiveness.

Power Verses
·                          Psalm 107:13-14 (NIV) “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”

·                          Psalm 116:16 (NIV) “O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.”


·                          Matthew 4:24 (NIV) “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, and those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.”

·                          I Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”



·                          John 3:16 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”   

Monday, July 31, 2017

Written Just for Me

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be
thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
II Timothy 2:16-17 (NIV)

            When my son was small, I ordered a book for him that quickly became his favorite. The reason? His name was in it. It was a book that you custom ordered and the company placed your child’s name on almost every page.

            Imagine the delight of a child who reads “Eddie is the best ball player ever!” or “I like to play at Eddie’s house.” And you are Eddie.

            The day it arrived in the mail, I read the book to him a couple of times. But that was not enough. He begged me to read it to him over and over and over. By the time his father came home that evening, I had the book completely memorized.

            When he heard the truck pull in, my son ran to the door, book in hand. “Daddy, daddy, look!” he yelled. “This is MY book and it has MY name in it everywhere! It’s about me, Daddy, and it’s written just for ME!”

            The comparison between my son’s book and the Bible is amazing. Today’s Scripture from II Timothy 2:16-17 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

            The Bible was written just for us! Each page has something for every person to read and learn. For example, do you feel unloved? God says in Jeremiah 31:3 that He loves us with an “everlasting love.”

            Do you wonder what the future holds for you? He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has a special plan for each of us. Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to lean on God because He is wise and will direct our present and our future.

            Are there days when you are discouraged and feel alone and frightened? Just stop for a moment and read God’s encouragement to us in Deuteronomy 31:8.

            The Bible was written for all of us – not just for men but not women; for the tall but not the short; for the wealthy but not the poor; for the introvert but not the extrovert. It was written so that every single one of us could know the depth of love and mercy our Father has for us. It is personal and tailor-made for all of us because He knows us better than anyone.

            Sure we see names like “David” and “Joshua” and we read about “Peter” and “Rahab.” But don’t you see? That’s US! That’s all of us. We are all, at times, afraid. We struggle with wanting to do the right thing but failing. We deny God’s nudging when He calls our names. Just like they did.

            The Bible: a book of guidance and direction, encouragement and love. A Book written just for us.

            Father, thank you for your words of love, hope and mercy to us, your children. Help me to know you better and to understand your plan for me in your Word.  In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up

Reflect
  • Have you ever felt like the Bible was written for people who lived a long time ago and not for you today in whatever situation you may be facing?

Application
  • Read today’s Power Verses but replace every “you” in the sentences with your name.
  • Read each Scripture again. Does God’s Word feel more personable and intimate to you now?
  • As you read Scripture in your daily walk, remember that God’s Word was written specifically for you. Thank Him for His faithfulness to you.

Power Verses
  • II Timothy 2:16-17 (NIV) “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
  • Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV) “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’”
  • Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
  • Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NIV) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV) “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”      





The Boring Unimportant Tuba

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ....