Thursday, August 22, 2019

One Day You Will Thank Me


“Do not be like them, for your Father knows
what you need before you ask him.”
Matthew 6:8 (NIV)
            The dress stood out as it hung on the end of the rack: purple bows on the sleeves and around the neck, blue and green tulle – yards and yards of tulle – gathered at the waist and accented with silver roses. It was just the kind of dress that would appeal to a little girl wanting to “dress up” but not to her mother.

My granddaughter Ella stared at the dress as we walked by and smiled. She turned to me and said “Grandma, when I was little I wanted a dress like that so badly! I begged and begged my mom to get it for me.”  “And did she, Ella?” I asked.

Ella smiled again. “No. I was so disappointed but I remember her hugging me and saying ‘No, Ella, and one day you will thank me.’” I laughed and replied “And what do you think now?” Ella grinned “She was right.”

I can totally relate that conversation to my relationship with God. Can you? I ask and ask for something, so sure that it is exactly what I need or want. And when it doesn’t work out – when God says no – I am extremely disappointed and, unfortunately, start to question whether or not God really knows what’s best for me.

We don’t like it when we don’t get what we want, do we? And when we can’t see the reason for the “no,” we forget what God has promised us in His Word: that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6); that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Does God understand how important our request is? Does He even listen and care? Absolutely! But He who made the heavens and earth, who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end – He know what we need before we even ask. And He never ever makes a mistake.

Think about it: the boyfriend in high school that you prayed would be “the one” but he married someone else – and a year later you met the Godly young man who is now your husband; what about the job that you were certain was the right one and you prayed but didn’t get it, and now you are thankful because the business folded after one year.

Both prayers had “no” answers from God. But eventually the reasons for those answers became clear and resulted in thankfulness for a Father who knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8).

 Ella was initially disappointed in her mother’s “no” to the dress she thought she needed; but she eventually completely understood her “one day you will thank me” reply.

We, too, can be disappointed when God does not always answer in the way we want. Just remember that He always knows what we need, even before we ask, and one day we will thank Him for His answers.

            Father, I take this moment to thank you. To thank you for all those “no” answers to my prayers, when I thought I knew best what I needed in my life. You know what I need before I even ask. And you are faithful. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .
Reflect
  • Have you ever gotten mad at God because your prayer for something you were sure was right for you, was not answered like you wanted?
  • Did you stop to consider that God had a better plan in place for you?

Apply
  • Journal prayer requests that you have made for the last year that God said “no” to for your life.
  • How many of those requests are you now thankful that you received a “no” instead of a yes answer?
  • Praise the Lord for His faithfulness in your life.
Power
  • Matthew 6:8 (NIV) “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” 
  • Matthew 7:9-10 (NIV) “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”
  • Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “’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.’”
  • Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
  • Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV) “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”


Saturday, August 17, 2019

When I Question God’s Answer to My Prayer


“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37 (NIV)

                For some reason, I have the unenviable ability to pass judgment on people and situations and then get caught with my foot in my mouth time and time again. Here is one example:

                A few summers ago, I was driving home from a city about 30 miles away. My little brown van with no air conditioning resented the over 100 degree weather even more than I did. My three friends (or at least they WERE my friends before the trip) liked the heat even less
.
                Suddenly my van began to cough and sputter and choke – similar to what WE were doing in the heat. I couldn’t keep myself from groaning with frustration as I managed to guide the now silent machine with steam seeping from its hood to the side of the highway.

                None of us knew anything about cars, so we stood beside the van with the hood up, glaring at the engine as if we expected it to apologize for its behavior, fix itself immediately, and hum on command. All this as traffic ignored us for several minutes and continued to zip by.

                Suddenly I realized what I should have been doing when the problem first occurred: I prayed. “Lord, please send us somebody who knows something about cars!” I whispered.

                It could not have been more than one minute later that my friends and I heard an engine reduce its speed and turned to see a guy and girl on a motorcycle pass us, slow down (as if having second thoughts) and finally come to a stop several feet ahead of us on the side of the highway
.
                My excitement turned to instant disappointment as the young man on the motorcycle took off his helmet and turned to face us. A dirty, red bandana tied back blonde matted sweat-soaked hair that appeared to have never had a lasting relationship with scissors or water. Tattoos of someone named “Cheryl” were evident from east to west and the look was complimented by leather arm bands accented with silver spikes.

                In my mind he resembled someone from a bad movie titled “The Hippie Who Conquered Outer Space.” I was confused. God must be hard of hearing! “Hey,” I prayed silently. “I asked for somebody who knows something about cars – NOT someone who looks like he came from Mars!”

                As he walked toward us, the young man smiled slowly and asked “Need some help?” We all stared for a moment and finally I volunteered “Well, yes, but I don’t think you can help us. We need someone who is familiar with cars.”

                He just smiled that easy smile again and said “Well, I’m not sure about the “familiar” part but I AM an auto mechanic. Will that do?” as he tightened a part here and adjusted a switch there and the car jumped to life
.
                I immediately apologized and thanked the young man for his help. But two thoughts also occurred to me. First, God answered my prayer instantly – within one minute! But secondly – and sadly - my response was not one of gratefulness and praise. Nope. I responded with complaining because I didn’t like the way His answer looked.

 God sent the perfect answer – an auto mechanic – to fix my car so I could continue home. But instead of a “hallelujah” response, I judged how the man looked and the human part of me, the selfish, judgmental part of me, questioned why God would send someone to help me who (I thought) had no idea how to fix my problem.
   
                Not only did I apologize to this young man but I also apologized to the Creator of the Universe. Forgive me, Lord, for my attitude! Please keep working on me. I think I have a long way to go!

                Father, forgive my arrogance for trying to tell you how to answer my prayer. Forgive me when you send me exactly what I need but I am so judgmental that I don’t recognize your answer to my situation. Please continue to work on my attitude and help me to look at others as you do and to remember that you are in control of all things. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .
Reflect
·          Is there a friend who you need to ask to forgive you for judgmental comments you have made about her? Has being judgmental become a life style for you?
·          Do you find yourself continually questioning whether God truly answers your prayers in the way He thinks is best or do YOU think you know better what you need?
·         Ask a prayer warrior friend to hold you accountable for your attitude, conversations and comments.
Apply
·          Ask the Lord to show you areas in your life where you are judgmental. Examine your conversations for the last week. Were you judgmental?
·          Write down your prayer requests in a journal. Add why you are praying this request and then beside it write “Not my will but yours, Lord.”
·          Journal His answers to your requests and thank Him for knowing what is best for you all the time.
Power
·          Luke 6:37 (NIV) “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
·          Matthew 12:36 (NIV) “But I tell you that men will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken.”
·          Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Friday, August 9, 2019

When I’m Quick to Forget



“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes,
I will remember your miracles
of long ago.”
Psalm 77:11 (NIV)

My friend and I sat in front of the small fan blowing air on high and groaned about the unbearable heat of the summer. Temperatures were well into the 100’s and our families were suffering with no air conditioning in our homes.

Even swimming didn’t seem to help because the water temperature was so warm. “It’s only June and it’s 100 degrees,” my friend commented. “We haven’t even gotten to August!”

Two weeks later she called me with great news: “Tom is having air conditioning installed in our home! Can you believe it? We will have it by the weekend!” I was so excited for her. “Wow,” I said. “Sleeping in cool comfort all night!”

She chimed in “Putting on makeup that actually stays on my face and doesn’t run to my belly button.” We giggled like little girls at her great news.

As the summer continued on and the temperatures continued to climb, my friend enjoyed the coolness of central air; however we were not financially able to have it installed at our home.

The first day of August brought 109’ temperatures by 10 a.m. I had three fans blowing on high and windows open for a breeze but it did little to cool us off. I called my friend to chat. “I think this is the hottest day we have had this summer! We are roasting in our house! I am praying for some cooler temperatures soon,” I moaned.

But her response caused me to stop in mid-sentence. “Seriously Nancy. You think this is hot? I’ve seen a lot worse than today, or this summer for that matter. It’s not bad at all.”

Huh? What in the world had just happened? The weather hadn’t changed; in fact, it was hotter with each passing day. But what HAD changed was my friend’s perspective.

She was now sitting in a cool, air conditioned home and had forgotten how hot she had once been. The empathy we had shared concerning the summer heat was gone because her situation had changed. She had once been exactly where I currently was, but somehow, since it no longer applied to her, she had forgotten that fact.

            Sometimes we do the same thing, don’t we. Oh, not about air conditioning, perhaps, but about other, much more important issues.

For example, we see a young couple in the church struggling with finances and instead of remembering our same struggle and offering help and encouragement, we are quick to comment on how – if they were more careful budgeting – they should be able to make ends meet.  

We watch as a young mother unsuccessfully tries to push a shopping cart while holding on to three little ones who are intent on running away and hiding from her. We forget about the day our two year old hid from us for 30 minutes in the same store and instead give this woman an “if you were a better parent, your kids would mind” look when what we should be doing is offering to help her as she shops.  

The empathy that we should have as Christians is often lost as we forget what the Lord has done for us and respond with judgment and a lack of understanding instead of with compassion and support for whatever they are facing.

We need to always remember how the Lord directed our steps and got us through tough situations so that we can, in turn, encourage and help those around us who may be struggling as we once did.  


Father, so many times I am quick to judge, forgetting that when I have faced some of the very same situations that they are facing, you got me through each one. Help me to remember your goodness so I can be an encourager and not a discourager. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Have you ever forgotten what the Lord has done for you in the past and been quick to judge someone?

  • When you faced the situation they are facing, was there someone who encouraged or discouraged you?

Apply
  • Reflect on those times in your past when a Christian encouraged you as you struggled with a situation in your life.

  • Determine to be that same kind of encourager to people around you as you keep your eyes open for opportunities to show the compassion and understanding of Jesus.

Power
  • Psalm 77:11 (NIV) “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”

  • I Chronicles 16:11-12 (NIV) “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…”

  • Psalm 78:11 (NIV) “They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.”


Friday, August 2, 2019

The Most Wonderful Day of my Life


“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise
but as wise, making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

There were very few times as a little girl that I got to go with my dad and help him with his farm chores. I don’t remember why. Perhaps he was in a hurry with so much to do. Perhaps he wanted to make sure his 8 year old daughter was safe in the house and away from the equipment.

Whatever the reason, I longed to do something – anything – with him. And then it happened. He asked me to help him feed the cattle.

It was an extremely cold January day so I zipped and buttoned layer after layer to stay warm and topped it all with over-sized brown coveralls, a green stocking cap and two pairs of gloves. My job was to drive the tractor while he threw hay off the back of the wagon to the cattle.

            It’s funny how sights and sounds stay with you but I can still remember the smell of the hay and feel the crisp air on my face as I proudly drove the tractor around the field as the cattle followed. I remember thinking that this must be what the Pied Piper of Hamelin did to get the children to follow him, except the children were replaced by cattle and my dad used his voice instead of a flute to get them to follow.

In all honesty, I am sure that my dad did not look back on that experience with me as anything out of the ordinary. But not me! Oh, I remember that day even now because it was one of the few times that I got to work side by side with my dad.

I am reminded of a true story about Charles Francis Adams, the grandson of President John Adams and the son of President John Quincy Adams. Charles, a successful lawyer and politician, was disciplined to the point of keeping a dairy that he wrote in almost daily.

One entry was this: “Went fishing with my son today – a day wasted.” However his son, Brook Adams, who also kept a diary, wrote this entry on the same day: “Went fishing with my father – the most wonderful day of my life!”

I know that life gets crazy. There are demanding careers and unmowed lawns and dirty dishes and jammed windows. There are golf games and card games and unread books and unmade beds
.
But there are also children. Children to hug and cheeks to kiss and puddles to wade in. There are also kites to fly and bikes to ride and songs to sing and laughter to share and Scripture to learn. There are memories to be made, my friends. How will your children remember you?

Paul was so wise as he encouraged the people at Ephesus to wisely make the most of every opportunity that they had to do the Lord’s will. His warning applies to us today as well. Unfortunately I have to admit that I can get my priorities out of order when it comes to my children. How about you?

There is absolutely nothing in your life right now that cannot wait until you hug or love or tickle or squeeze your children. Until you take each little face in your hands, look into upturned eyes and say “The best part of my day is you.”  I have no doubt that your child will immediately think “this is the most wonderful day of my life!”


Father, thank you for reminding me today that spending time with my children is more important than anything in this world. I pray I will take every opportunity to let them know how much they are loved. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Are your children listed above everything that you have to do this next week or at the bottom of the list?

  • Do you find yourself telling your kids “Yes, we will do that together someday” but “someday” always gets replaced by your to-do list?

Apply
  • Make two columns in your journal. Label them “Important for Now” and “Important for Eternity.”

  • Enter your activities for next week under one of the two columns. Prioritize activities so your children are at the top of both columns. Are your children listed in any of the activities? In which column are they?

Power
  • Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV) “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

  • James 4:14 (NIV) “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

  • Psalm 39:4 (NIV) “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.”

Friday, July 26, 2019

Inconvenience or Opportunity?


“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Galatians 6:10 (NIV)

I learned an important lesson while sitting in my car at railroad tracks, waiting for a train to go by. And no, it wasn’t a lesson about looking both ways before crossing. It was more important than that. Let me explain.

A student at the school where I worked as health services director had become ill and needed to go home. However, his mother could not come get him because their car battery was dead so I decided to take him.

He thanked me several times for the ride and I told him that I was glad to help out. “Any time,” I told him. But my actions said something entirely different than my words.

As we waited on the train – and waited and waited – I mentally began to picture the list of everything I needed to get done that day. Waiting on a train was not on my list. As my impatience increased, my irritation tagged right along.

I began to tap on the steering wheel of my car, faster and faster. I had not even realized I was doing it until I glanced at the student and found him gazing at the frustrated beating of my fingers.

Before I could say a thing, he quietly responded “I’m really sorry that you have to take me home. I’m sure you have a lot more important things to do.” Oh, my heart. Ouch.

 And before I could answer him, my Spirit whispered “Nothing is more important than a great opportunity to listen to this child of mine and to share Truth.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I think the Lord is trying to teach me patience with this long train!” I smiled and he smiled back.

Paul could not have known that I would be sitting at train tracks and almost missing an opportunity to share Jesus when he wrote Galatians 6.

My actions had spoken loudly to this young man. I had sent him the message that he was of little or no importance to me in comparison with everything that I thought I needed to get done that day. In other words, I was letting him know that his value to me was, well, of no value.

Would you believe I began to wish that the long train would be longer? I did. Because when I switched my focus from me to my student, I found out his college preference and why; what choices his friends were making and his opinion; how things were at home, and – most importantly – that he had several questions about the Bible.

There are always going to be long lines at grocery stores and yes, long trains at railroad crossings. But rather than sigh and tap my fingers impatiently, I need to look at each and every “inconvenience” as an opportunity to listen and to encourage those around me.


Father, please help me to see every “long train” as an opportunity to stop and focus on those around me who need to know you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Can you remember a time when you had an opportunity to be an example of a Christ-follower but were more focused on the inconvenience of your schedule being interrupted?

  • Is there anything on your schedule that is more important than taking the time to simply listen with your ears and your heart to someone?

Apply
  • When your day is interrupted by a long line or long train, look around you at those in line with you.

  • Take your focus off the immediate situation and turn it to those around you as you encourage and listen.

Power
  • Galatians 6:10 (NIV) “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

  • Philippians 2:4 (NIV) “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

  • Colossians 3:12 (NIV) “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . .”

Friday, July 19, 2019

No Pain, No Gain


“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial
you are suffering, as though something
strange were happening to you.”
I Peter 4:12 (NIV)

Ashley is a beautiful 15 year old girl with long dark hair and the latest style of black framed glasses perched on her nose. She smiles, she laughs, she dances and she talks on the phone with her friends.

She’s your typical teenager except for one very important thing: Ashley does not feel pain. Any pain.

She was born with something called congenital insensitivity to pain. She can feel pressure, yes but pain, no. She feels badly for someone who is hurt and in pain but she cannot describe the feeling herself. Because she has never felt it.

Ashley’s parents knew something wasn’t right soon after she was born but were totally surprised by the diagnosis they were given. A professor following her case commented that while pain is a gift, it is not a gift that Ashley has been given.

Calling pain a gift? Now, honestly, the first thought that someone might have at the idea of feeling NO pain would probably be “That would be fantastic!” Stub your toe? Not a problem! Trying to run a mile or lift weights? You could work right through without feeling pain like everyone else!

But think again. Not feeling an appendicitis attack could lead to life-threatening consequences if you have no concept of a warning pain. And what about getting into a bathtub of extremely hot water? Imagine the burns you could receive because you could not tell the water was scalding hot when you got in the tub.

In today’s Scripture, Peter does not tell us that pain is a gift but he does tell us that in this world we are going to have plenty of it. He even refers to it as the “painful trial you are suffering” and cautions us not to be surprised when it occurs. Perhaps it is physical pain from a life threatening disease but it can also refer to emotional, mental and spiritual pain as well.

Just because we are believers in Christ, we cannot assume that we are exempt from pain. This world is not our home and we are not welcome here. We don’t have to like it or understand it. But we should never assume that God isn’t in control or at work in our lives when the tough stuff hits.

Remember that God knows exactly what is going on. Call on His name. Get into His Word. Hold on to Him and allow Him to hold on to you. He has a plan in everything that happens, including the pain we experience every day
.
This world will not be around forever and neither will pain. We are told in Revelation 21:4 that Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes and we will never again experience death or mourning or crying or pain!

How I long for the days of no pain and great gain – with Jesus.


Father, please give me strength and courage for the days of pain ahead, that I may focus on you and eternity. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


                                                  R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Have you ever felt that because you are a Christian you should not have to experience pain in this world?

  • How does that thinking line up with today’s Scripture?

Apply
  • As you face painful trials in this life, write each one down in your journal.

  • Then pray “Lord, I am not surprised by this trial. Please give me strength and courage to get through it and keep my focus on you.”

Power
  • I Peter 4:12 (NIV) “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”

  • Revelation 21:4 (NIV) “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

  • Romans 8:18 (NIV) “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”



Friday, July 12, 2019

Facing our Giant


“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and
spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of
the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies
of Israel, whom you have defied.”
I Samuel 17:45 (NIV)

He was 7’1” tall and weighed 325 pounds. I was 5’8” and totally in awe – and a little unnerved – as I stood in the store by the life size cardboard cutout of Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal, the famous basketball player. I tried to imagine what it would be like to have him as a bodyguard and decided instantly that he would without a doubt intimidate even the strongest and bravest of men.

I could not help but compare Shaq with a man in the Bible who, believe it or not, was much bigger: Goliath.

It is estimated from Scripture that Goliath was over 9’ tall and weighed a minimum of 650 pounds. Mercy. If you compare that with the average height for men during that time at being just a bit over 5 feet, you can appreciate how frightened they would be at just the appearance of Goliath.

In I Samuel we read that Goliath, a Philistine, had been intimidating the Israelite army day after day. And it was working. The army listened to his daily taunts and as a result, they were all too frightened to challenge the mighty giant.

Except for one – a boy named David. A belief in God’s power, a sling and a stone later, the giant came down and the rest is history.

So let me ask you something: what is your giant? What keeps you awake at night? What scares you until you can hardly breathe and steals peace from your heart day after day?

Is it the threat of war all over the world or the threat of a devastating illness? Could it be that one you love does not know the Lord and doesn’t seem to care or someone you love no longer loves you?

Whatever you are facing, I encourage you to switch your focus from Goliath to God. You will find, as David did, that a large faith and a small stone are a deadly combination for bringing a giant to its knees.

Father, thank you for battling my giants as I switch my focus to you and your power. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Have you ever felt like situations in your life were so big that even God could not handle them?

  • Were you focusing on the giants or on God?

Apply
  • Write down the giants in your life right now that you are struggling with on separate pieces of paper.

  • Then, one at a time, wad up each paper and throw it away, switching your focus from the giant to God. Thank Him for what He is going to do to handle that giant for you.

Power
  • I Samuel 17:45 (NIV) “David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

  • II Chronicles 32:7 (NIV) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.”

  • I John 4:4 (NIV) “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

One Day You Will Thank Me

“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8 (NIV)             The dress stood out as ...