Monday, November 13, 2017

Kicking Out the Uninvited Guest

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
Psalm 46:1-2 (NIV)

An uninvited guest moved into my home immediately after my husband passed away. No matter where I turned, he was there. And he never slept.

I would wake up to his repeated taunts and whispers. With every attack my heart would race in my chest as if I had just run a marathon. “Who’s going to be next?” he would taunt. “Someone else is going to die; who do you think it is?” he would challenge and then fade into the background, leaving me with a choking panic in my throat.

One morning a daily phone call to a close friend was not answered. From out of nowhere a voice spoke a lie to my heart. “She’s dead. She was the next one.” And for an instant, I almost believed him.

The name of my uninvited guest? Satan, the evil liar. He did every thing he could to move into my home – and my heart – with his baggage of deception and deceit. His purpose was to drain my joy and my hope and to shake my very foundation and belief and trust in Jesus.

In my defense, within about a 5 month time period, I had lost my brother-in-law, who was more like a brother; my sister who was my best friend and two weeks after that, my husband.

I cannot begin to describe the deep heartache and grief that filled every second of my days and nights. I held on to the Lord with every ounce of strength I had but there were many days when simply breathing became an accomplishment.  

The entire book of Psalms became my place of refuge – my hiding place. I literally ran to my Bible and held it closely as I read one Scripture after another in which David talked about holding on to God with everything He had. Why?

Because even David had days when he was lonely and defeated and heartbroken and beaten up spiritually. And yes, when he was afraid. David the warrior was afraid.

Psalm 46:1-2 became a minute by minute encouragement to me. David wrote “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

That was exactly how I felt: everything beneath my feet had broken apart and I was in free fall with no rope for security.

If you have not experienced the suddenness of loss – either of a loved one or a job or something secure in your life – you will. Jesus tells us that we will have problems in this world (John 16:33) but the great news is that He has already overcome every single heartache that we will face.

Because Jesus held on to me and spoke truth, my uninvited guest was kicked from my home and my heart and replaced with the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh, Satan still tries to sneak back in every so often. But I no longer live in fear. I live in faith.

Father, thank you for being my strength when I have none and for always being by my side. I choose to listen to your voice. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Can you think of an experience when fear took over every part of your life and you found yourself struggling?


Application
  • There are 150 chapters in the book of Psalms. Read 5 per day for one month.

  • Underline or highlight those parts that specifically speak to your heart.

  • Memorize today’s Scripture and praise the Lord for His presence by your side, no matter what you face in life. He is faithful.


Power Verses
  • Psalm 46:1-2 (NIV) “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

  • Psalm 27:1 (NIV) “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?”

  • Psalm 34:4 (NIV) “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

  • Psalm 16:8 (NIV) “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

  • Psalm 23:4 (NIV) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”



Monday, November 6, 2017

What I Really Think

 “These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.”
Matthew 15:8 (NIV)  

            Glasses that allow you to read minds? Sounds great, doesn’t it and what a novel idea! Or maybe not.

            That was the concept for a television show several years ago. An elderly lady found a pair of reading glasses in the back of a dresser drawer in her home. She discovered that when she put them on, she could hear what people were actually thinking while they were speaking to her. She was totally confused at first.

            For example, when she put the glasses on, she heard her grandson say “Man, I hope the old gal falls down those stairs. Can’t wait to get my inheritance!” She was shocked and quickly pulled the glass off and asked “What did you say?” Her grandson replied “I said to please be careful coming down the stairs so you don’t fall.”

            Thinking she had misunderstood, she put the glasses back on and glanced at her grandson’s girlfriend, only to hear her say “You old goat! Wish you would die already!”

            In shock, she pulled off the glasses and said “Excuse me?” and heard the young lady say “I said that I want you to be careful, too.”

            The elderly lady suddenly realized the value of the glasses: when she was wearing them, they had the ability to show her what a person was really thinking, no matter what they were saying.

            It isn’t a big leap to apply that scenario to our lives today, is it. We are all guilty of saying one thing while totally thinking the opposite. No?

            What about telling a friend how much we love her new dress but inside we are thinking “I would n-e-v-e-r buy something that ugly!”

            Or perhaps we tell someone we will be praying for them concerning a situation but inside we think “You know, you really got what you deserved.”

            Jesus dealt with people who said one thing but who were only giving “lip service” to Him. He called them hypocrites. Ouch.

In Matthew 15:8 He said “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  He knew that what we think in our minds comes directly from our hearts.

Allowing critical thoughts and judgmental opinions space in our hearts will give them permission to take up residence in our minds. In the same way, if kindness and compassion occupy our hearts, they will be a part of our lives.

            I cringe as I consider those times that I said one thing and thought something totally different. What if the person could hear what I was actually thinking? How embarrassed and ashamed I would be!

            My encouragement for today is to allow the Lord to create pure hearts in each of us (Psalm 51:10) and to make sure that the words we speak AND think will be pleasing to Him.

            Father, I do not always serve you with my thoughts and my words. Please forgive me and help me to honor you with everything in me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Can you think of a time that you spoke one thing but were thinking something totally different?
  • Would you have been embarrassed if the person you were thinking about could actually hear those thoughts?

Application
  • Memorize Matthew 15:8. Stop and consider comments before you make them to make sure you are not saying one thing but thinking another. 

Power Verses

  • Matthew 15:8 (NIV) “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
  • Psalm 51:10 (NIV) “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
  • Psalm 19:14 (NIV) “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
  • I Samuel 16:7 (NIV) “. . . The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
  • Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”   

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Candy Corn Reminder

“I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do
 I do not do, but what
 I hate I do.”
 Romans 7:15 (NIV)

There is a small bowl full of candy corn sitting on my coffee table. It’s almost always there. I keep it as a reminder of something that happened to me as a small child and as a reminder of my behavior as an adult.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My parents played cards with several couples and we had gone with them to the home of a family we had not met before. As we were sitting on their sofa in the living room, we spotted a bowl of candy corn on the coffee table. That was a delicacy to us and one that we seldom had at our house.  

The daughter of this family frowned as she watched us dip into the bowl again and again. We truly were not trying to be greedy; we simply knew that we would probably not get another opportunity to eat candy corn for a long time.

We must have eaten almost all the sweet candy because she suddenly grabbed the bowl and shouted to her parents in the other room: “Those kids are eating ALL the candy! By the handfuls, Mom! It’s almost gone!” and gave us a look of ‘what is wrong with you’ that mortified us all.
  
I remember thinking as my face flushed with embarrassment that I would never treat anyone like that – ever.

Fast forward to my being a parent and buying my children a package of 12 juice boxes. I had just enough money to get them and told my kids to make them last all week.

When I came in the kitchen about an hour later and saw all 12 empty boxes, I blew up. “You kids drank ALL the juices at one time! Every single one! Now it’s all gone!” and gave them the ‘what is wrong with you’ look. I am sure they were mortified.

 Suddenly, I was not looking at 12 empty juice boxes but rather at a nearly empty bowl of candy corn and I could feel the sting of hurtful words and the weight of embarrassment.

The very thing I hate, I end up doing. That’s what Paul is saying in Romans 7:15. I know what is right. I know what I should do. But instead, I do the very thing that I hate.
  
Reading further in verses 18 and 19 of Romans, Paul states that he, too, has the desire to do what is good and right but he just doesn’t do it. Even Paul struggled with the sinful nature that urges us to ignore the right thing to do and instead to do whatever we want.  
There is an ongoing battle between our sinful natures and God’s will for our lives.
How thankful I am for the cross and for a Savior whose grace and mercy are mine when I ask for forgiveness and another opportunity to be Jesus to the world.

Let us keep on praying, confessing our mistakes and trying again. He who is faithful will never leave us. And His grace covers candy corn and juice boxes.  

Father, how many times have I said I would never treat someone a certain way, and yet I have. Forgive me and help me to focus on you and your will. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.  

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Have you ever seen or overheard something and thought “I would never do that” but later found yourself doing the very thing you said you would never do?

Application
  • Find something, like my bowl of candy corn, to place in your home as a reminder of Romans 7:15.
  • When you find yourself, as Paul did, doing the opposite of what you want to do, ask the Lord for forgiveness and ask the Holy Spirit to redirect you to God’s will.

Power Verses
  • Romans 7:15 (NIV) “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

  • Romans 12:9 (NIV) “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

  • Romans 7:18 -19 (NIV) “. . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”

  • James 4:17 (NIV) “Anyone, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

  • Philippians 4:13 (NIV) “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  



Friday, October 13, 2017

Prayer in the Gym

“If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed
in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings
of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the
sea, even there your hand will guide
me, your right hand will
hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:8-9 (NIV)

            I truly love working out. Well, except legs day. I hate legs day. But all the rest of the time I love it! And I will admit that almost every time I work out, I pray for the strength to get through the next set of burpees or squats.

            But early one morning as I was lifting and praying, the prayers were not for me but for a friend of mine. I had received a message that Sam was struggling with his cancer; it had roared back and he was in a huge battle.

            So as I walked into the gym, I was praying for him. For strength and courage. For a peace in knowing that God was beside him. That his heart would be open to Jesus as never before.

            When I saw Al, someone who hates legs day almost as much as I do, I asked him to be praying for Sam. I shared a bit of what was going on and Al immediately said “Sure I will pray.” But he went one step further.

            As I was warming up, he asked a question: “Would you like to pray now?” Wow! Without a doubt my answer was yes!

            So in a fitness gym, surrounded by equipment designed to make one stronger, we came together before the Strongest Power in the universe in prayer.

            He prayed for Sam’s heart, for his health, that someone would come into his hospital room and gently share the love of Jesus. For peace in the battle. And he praised the Lord for His control in every situation in life.  

            Some things didn’t change that morning. I still hate legs day and I despise burpees. But God, the Creator of the Universe, leaned down and met His children in a gym as they knelt before Him. Because He is always with us, no matter where we are or what we are doing. Even on legs day. 


Father, thank you for hearing us when we cry out to you, no matter where we are in this world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Have you ever thought that God only heard your prayers if you were in church or at a Bible study?

Application
  • Journal all the places you normally pray.

  • Can you think of places where you don’t usually pray?

  • Journal those places as well and make an effort to be praying and praising at those times, as well. For example, mowing the lawn, while you are at a beauty salon, waiting in a long line at the grocery store.

Power Verses
  • Psalm 139:8-9 (NIV) If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

  • Isaiah 41:10 (NIV) “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

  • Psalm 66:19 (NIV) “. . . but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.”

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

  • Psalm 116:1 (NIV) “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.”




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Innocent Bystanders

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who  believe in me
to sin, it would be better for him  to have a large
millstone hung around his neck and  to be
drowned in the depths of the sea.”
 Matthew 18:6 (NIV)

Subbing at school is always entertaining and a bit interesting – especially in the younger grades. A few weeks ago I subbed in a 5th grade classroom in the morning and in a 2nd grade classroom in the afternoon.
  
My conversation with a little boy in the afternoon class as I walked in the door went like this:
“Who are you?”
“Your sub for the afternoon.”
“Why weren’t you here this morning?”
“I was subbing in 5th grade.”
“Hey! I have a friend in 5th grade!”
“You do? What’s his name?”
“His first name is Donald.”
“I don’t think I had anyone in my class by that name. What is his last name?”
He paused and thought for a couple of seconds. Then an ah-ha moment:
“I think his last name is Trump.”
Comment from the boy beside him: “Your friend is on TV??!!”

Can I share with you that I laughed off and on for about 30 minutes? I did. But then something occurred to me.

Obviously these two little boys had seen and heard some of the political news – who hasn’t? But I realized that they were probably just “innocent bystanders” to what they were hearing and seeing at home.

Then I found myself asking a simple question: what are children hearing and seeing when adults are having other conversations at home?

For example, the phone rings and Mom whispers to Dad “Tell them I’m not here right now.” Or perhaps Dad gets too much money back from a purchase at a store and he laughs “I’m not saying anything – it’s their mistake!”

And the children watch and listen. And learn.  

Today’s Scripture from Matthew 18:6 is a crystal clear caution from Jesus. He says “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Wow. Jesus doesn’t get more direct than that.
We, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, have a responsibility to guard what our little ones hear and see every day. No, we will not be able to shield them from everything that can hurt them spiritually but we can make sure that we are not directing them toward sin by our actions. Our actions. Our words. Our example.

We may not think they are listening and watching but they are. And if we are not careful with our words and conversations, we could easily lead them in the wrong direction spiritually.

I encourage you to guard the hearts of your children. Begin by guarding what you say and do. Innocent bystanders are always watching and listening.  


Father, please convict me of any actions that would cause a little one around me to fall into sin. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.  

R.A.P. it up

Reflect
  • Have you ever been speaking about someone in an unchristian way and then realized that your children were watching and listening?

Application
  • In your journal make three columns. Write “example” at the top of the first column and write “Christ-like” above the second column. Above the third column write “Scripture.”

  • Now list a few sentences about conversations you have had or television or movies you have watched with your children listening, under “example” and place either a + or a – under the “Christ-like” column.

  •  If you have placed a – after any sentence, look up Scripture references to help you get re-directed and write them in the third column.

Power Verses
  • Matthew 18:6 (NIV) “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

  • Psalm 19:14 (NIV) “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

  • I Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

  • Mark 10:14 (NIV) “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”

  • Proverbs 17:6 (NIV) “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.”






Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Not Forgotten – Help Is On the Way!


“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and
 have no compassion on the child she
 has borne? Though she may  forget,
I will not forget you!”
Isaiah 49:15 (NIV)

Captain Scott O’Grady – a name you might hear and forget but whose story is unforgettable. Captain O’Grady is a former United States Air Force fighter pilot. He was shot down during the Bosnian War on June 2, 1995, but was able to eject safely and hide for a week in rough woods before being rescued.

The facts of this true story are incredible. The Bosnian Serb Army hunted relentlessly for the downed captain. He had to stay in hiding by day and move only at night, surviving by eating grass and insects and storing rainwater in a sponge kept in a plastic bag. Eventually he was able to radio his position to the Air Force, hoping that they would receive the transmission and he would be rescued.

But he was in hiding for a week - a week that must have seemed like an eternity to the captain. “Am I going to be rescued? Do they even hear my signals for help? Have they forgotten me?” he must have wondered.  

But here’s what Captain O’Grady didn’t know and couldn’t see. He was not forgotten. Help was on the way.

His rescuers included 51 Marines, two helicopters along with two Marine helicopter gunships, and two Marine jump jets. There were also six aircraft along with identical replacement crews, two Navy warfare planes, two Air Force warfare planes, two Marine Hornets, two anti-tank Air Force Warthogs and a NATO radar plane – all intent on rescuing Captain Scott O’Grady!

And rescue they did. The Marines were only on the ground seven minutes – long enough to rescue the captain and take him to safety. Only later did he discover the extensive team who rescued him. Captain O’Grady was not forgotten.

My friends, we are not forgotten either.  

Read today’s Scripture from Isaiah 49:15. God’s promise to Israel many years ago is also a promise to us today. Just as a mother could never forget her child, God tells the Israelites that He will never forget them. And He will never forget us either!

I don’t know what you may be facing in your life today. A child has left home and has not looked back. The diagnosis is cancer. The refrigerator has quit and there is no extra money to replace it. We may begin to question if God hears us when we cry out to Him and whether we have been forgotten in this world.

I encourage you to hold tight to His words of truth in the Bible. Don’t give up! Our hope and trust are in God alone.

Our physical eyes may not be able to see what is going on around us. But rest assured that – just like Captain O’Grady – we are not forgotten! Help is on the way!

Father, you warned us there would be pain and heartache in this world. But I praise you for never forgetting us and for answering when we call.  In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up

Reflect
  • Have you ever felt like you were alone and God had forgotten you?

Application
  • During your prayer time, read Psalm 18 every day for a week. Write down specific actions that God does for you, His child.

  • Praise Him for how He is going to sustain you and deliver you when you call on His name. Thank Him for never forgetting you, His child.

Power Verses
  • Isaiah 49:15 (NIV) “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

  • I Samuel 12:22 (NIV) “For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.”

  • Psalm 18:6 (NIV) “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”

  • II Timothy 4:18 (NIV) “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

  • Psalm 59:17 (NIV) “O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.”


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.” 


Kicking Out the Uninvited Guest

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mounta...