Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This is the Day

Twelve times a year I celebrate the first day of the new month. It’s a day in which I rejoice in the blessings of God and the life He’s given me, and I do so by filling it with little activities and actions all geared towards making the day special in some way. I do simple things like putting new pictures in picture frames, going out for breakfast, or changing my schedule around to include some playtime instead of just work on that day.

One day during a discussion of “firsts” in our lives I shared with my pastors my practice of first-of-the-month celebrations. Quite naturally they asked me what kind of things I do to mark the day. And suddenly I found myself hesitant to tell them, afraid that my little ceremonies would sound frivolous in light of the spiritual discussion we were having at the time.

In thinking about the situation again later, however, I asked myself what is wrong or unspiritual about simply enjoying life? Repeatedly in the Bible we are told to rejoice in our salvation. Not just once a month, but every day it gives God joy to see me enjoying the world He created and the blessings which fall from His Hands, in whatever way I choose to do so. No activity is unspiritual if it’s done with gratitude in one’s heart towards Him.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Psalm 118:24 NIV)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spot Mop Your Walk

Keeping the floors looking beautiful is one of management’s top priorities in the grocery store where I work. Therefore twice a year or so the store locks its doors in defiance of the normal open-24-hours policy in order to strip off the old wax and apply a shiny new coat. In between those times, however, the floor is kept clean by an employee who regularly walks up and down the aisles, a mop in one hand and a spray bottle in the other. He squirts water on any dirty spots he finds and wipes the floor clean and dry with the mop. Daily every inch of the floor is inspected and treated as necessary.

Jesus tells us in John 13 that our spiritual lives need the same kind of attention. At the beginning of our walk with the Lord each of us was washed clean when we repented of our sins and made Him the Lord of our lives. And there may be other times in our spiritual journey when we have to shut down completely and ask for forgiveness for some major sin we’ve allowed into our lives. But most of the time we just need to inspect ourselves daily, ask the Holy Spirit to point out areas in our walk that are spotted with sin and then be washed in Living Water to be made clean and fresh once more. Not only does such action keep us in right relationship with God, but it keeps our spiritual journey attractive to those who may be shopping for something more in theirs.

“Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet;
his whole body is clean…’”
(John 13:10 NIV)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Spiritual Driver's License

Desperate to get his driver’s license, my 16-year-old son waited nervously for the driving examiner to approach the car. Confident of his abilities on the road, it was the maneuverability portion of the exam that was a challenge to him. Steering the vehicle forward and back, to the right and to the left without hitting the orange cones on the corners of the test area had been to this date more than he could manage. After his first failed attempt he’d spent several hours in empty parking lots practicing the maneuvers. What once had seemed next to impossible he now could do successfully almost every time. Despite the knots in his stomach he believed he could pass the test today.

We face the same struggle in the spiritual realm. Before God places us behind the wheel of any ministry He tests us, sometimes repeatedly, to see if we can operate spiritually within the boundaries He’s designated, moving forward and back, to the right and to the left at His command. Like my son we sometimes try to move ahead before we’re ready and are frustrated by God’s insistence that we remain in training a little longer. But soon the day comes when we find that we can move in the spiritual realm around whatever obstacles the enemy places before us with ease. It’s then that God can trust us with the keys that unlock the doors to ministry and sends us on our way, confident in our ability to bring ourselves and our spiritual passengers safely Home.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved; a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Shepherd's Voice

A devout believer, a friend of mine couldn’t understand why she was having difficulty hearing God’s voice. She assumed that He just wasn’t talking to her. I tried to explain to her that God talks to all of us all the time. She just had yet to learn how to differentiate His voice from all the others that call out to her on a regular basis.

The woods around our house are host to a large population of red-bellied woodpeckers, and for a long time I assumed that I’d never heard one call. Eventually I associated a peculiarly throaty birdsong with this particular species and suddenly realized that I’d been “hearing” it for years - I just hadn’t made the connection between the two. Once I learned to recognize the call I was able to readily identify it in the midst of all the other bird chatter that I hear regularly. I was thrilled to be able to tell when one was near, just from the sound of its voice.

Likewise it takes time spent in God’s presence for a new believer to recognize His voice when He speaks to her. Yet once we learn what it sounds like we recognize Him speaking to us wherever we are and whatever else we may be doing. From that point on we won’t confuse it with any of the other voices that compete for our attention in the spiritual realm.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Scope of my Scoop

I accidentally left the pitcher I use to scoop birdseed in the bag of bug-infested sunflower seeds I threw away yesterday. For a minute I considered digging it out of the trash, which at that moment was sitting out on the side of the road, waiting the collector's imminent arrival. God must've smiled when I decided instead to find another scoop, as that was what He intended all along.

He's been talking to me lately about the measure with which I've been doling out seed - not sunflower seeds, of course, but financial seed, especially. He's been challenging me to use a bigger scoop.

There was a reason my bag of sunflower seed went bad. I let it sit for too long. Moths found their way inside, and the resultant worm-like larvae ruined the seed. If I'd used it in greater measure each day it would have gone to its intended use. And God is telling me that my financial resources will similarly go to waste if I don't scoop them out in greater measures towards the purposes for which He's supplied them.

My spiritual bag of seed doesn't just contain my finances. The same principles apply in using all the gifts I've been given with which to bless others. I need to freely sow God's love into the lives I come across each day. The faster I empty my bag of seed, the sooner I'll receive a new supply.

I simply need to use a bigger scoop.

"One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty."

(Proverbs 11:24 NIV)

Monday, August 15, 2011

School Prayer

I was driving my kids to their first day of school when I saw her – a mother with her three kids on the driveway of their home, gathered in a circle and holding hands. There was no doubt what they were doing – they were praying as they waited for the school bus to arrive.

I suddenly realized that I had done everything else that morning but that. My kids surrounded me, dressed in their new school clothes, their favorite lunches packed in their new lunchboxes, all the necessary school supplies stowed away in their backpacks. And yet I’d forgotten to pray. Their hearts were full of the excitement of seeing their friends again, but I’d neglected to have them visit with their best Friend before setting off in the car.

This woman didn’t forget that. While I was dressing my kids, she was addressing their Father. While I was loading their backpacks, she was lifting their burdens to the Lord. While I fed my children breakfast, knowing they’d be starving again by lunchtime, she fed hers food that never fails to satisfy. In all my rushing around to make sure mine would get to school on time, she’d taken the time to wrap hers in their Father’s love.

How sad if we get everything else right but miss the one thing they need most of all. There’s something so much more important than what we put in their lunches and book bags… it’s what we put in their hearts.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Recording Wrongs

"One… two… three…," I counted as I moved across the grass, bending repeatedly to retrieve the empty pop cans now squished flat after my son and his friend had gleefully ridden their go-cart over them the evening before. I'd stood at the window that night, watching them litter the lawn with the aluminum containers that they used for obstacles to drive around and targets to aim at, the boys relishing the resounding crunch each time one of them was smashed by a wheel.

Darkness had dropped too quickly for them to clean up the cans that night, and my son's early work schedule prevented him from completing the task before he left home the next day. The need to cut the grass before his return that evening forced me to perform the pickup duties myself. I tallied the cans as I gathered them, so that I could later impress upon my son the magnitude of the work I'd done for him.

Suddenly the Lord stopped me, instructing me to pick up the rest without counting how many of them there were. As I did so He reminded me that He hadn't kept track of the number of times He'd had to forgive me that day. Neither had He counted the minutes He'd hung on the cross for my sins. After all, it was a lot easier to use my hands to pick up a few cans than to have the same stretched across the beam of a cross and nailed to the splintered wood beneath them.

The next time I'm tempted to record another's wrongs I'll remember instead to count the ways my Savior loves me, and offer a little mercy myself as a result.

"Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?"
(Matthew 18:33)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Powered by the Son

My oldest son bought me a solar-powered lighthouse for the yard. All day long the panel on the top absorbs the sunlight, and then when darkness settles in, the light comes on and shines brightly all night long, powered solely by the energy that was absorbed during the daylight hours.

All of us in the Body of Christ are called to be God’s light in dark places. We gather together regularly to absorb the light of the Son of God, and then as we go our separate ways in the sometimes-dark places that are our jobs, our homes, and our lives outside of church, we can shine brightly, powered with the spiritual energy we stored during our time together.

God expects more of us, however, than that we be bright with His love just after church services. Lighthouses along the coastline guide weary travelers every night, and we, too, are called to show His goodness on a regular basis. That means that we have to have our spiritual solar panels pointed in His direction every single day, reading our Bibles, opening our hearts in prayer and absorbing the light of His presence, so that when darkness comes we’ll be powered up and ready to guide the lost safely home to the shelter of His love.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

(Ephesians 6:19 KJV)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Party Girl

"I'm a Party Girl." The thought brings a smile to my lips and a chuckle from somewhere deep within, probably in the vicinity of where I've kept my party-girl persona safely tucked away and hidden from view all these years.

A partying past is not normally something to be proud of in Christian circles. It's usually associated with a life of sin now covered by the Blood. Once put behind us, we lock the memory of those days away and bury them in the graveyard of our sinful past, rarely re-visiting them as we seek a lifestyle that glorifies the One we now serve. But every once in a while, aspects of our old personality pop up and reveal who we really are deep down inside.

God told me the other day that I wasn't fooling Him with my pretense of propriety. And I'm delighted by the revelation that it's okay to be who I really am, while leaving behind the sinful behavior which dominated my life in the past. I can let the lightheartedness of my life emerge from the more proper and reserved person I thought I had to become to be pleasing to the very One Who put the laughter inside of me in the first place! I am free to embrace each day fully and live it with laughter and joy, as God intended for me to do.

He's looking for "party girls" like me to spend eternity with. After all, the greatest celebration of them all is just about to begin.

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me."
(Psalm 139:1 NIV)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Look Up!

I find cemeteries to be wonderfully peaceful places. I love to wander along the rows of graves and read the headstones, looking at names and dates and the occasional cryptic messages carved in granite for those left behind. Many make me stop for a minute and think about my life and the way that I am living it in the time that I have left. Understandably, my eyes are usually looking down at the ground as I make my way through the burial plots.

But not so come fall. When I walk though the same grassy hillsides in the autumn months I find a message for me not on the stones on the ground but high in the treetops. My eyes are forever lifting to the colorful branches that shade these final resting places, heeding some internal urge to simply look up.

Truly the answers I seek to the situations I’m faced with every day come not from the world around me but the one above me. Whatever the spiritual condition of those buried there when they left this earth, they now know the truth about the love of God and Jesus’ death on the cross to save us. The lessons they may have learned too late to help them are now mine for the taking if I will just go beyond the obvious beauty of the surroundings and heed the call to look up to God while I still have the chance.

“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Jehovah;
in the morning I will direct my prayer to You, and I will look up.”
(Psalm 5:3 MKJV)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jesus in a Jelly Jar

I have something in common today with the jars of jelly on my grocer’s shelves. I’m preserved! The Bible tells me that God preserves me from all evil. He preserves my soul. And He preserves my going out and coming in forevermore.

The dictionary has several definitions for the word preserve. Perhaps the one we’re most familiar with is “to save from harm or destruction, to protect.” Surely that describes God’s actions on our behalf against the attacks of the enemy. Another meaning of the word is “to cause to remain good and wholesome.” God truly protects our souls this way even as a woman might do the same with canning, smoking or pickling a food item. But the word “preserve” can also be used as a noun, as in “a place set apart for the shelter and protection of… natural resources.” Surely we Christians are God’s spiritual resource! We were created for fellowship with Him and to accomplish His purposes on earth. He shelters and protects what He’s placed inside of us to use and enjoy as He desires.

A jar of jam is a simple reminder that my life is preserved for God's purposes, not my own.

“He preserves the way of His saints.“ (Proverbs 2:8 AMP)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Heavenly Housekeeping

My house is easily overwhelmed with clutter and mess. So God told me to leave each room better than I found it as I move around my home. I do one thing to tidy a room before I leave it. I pick up an abandoned pop can as I walk through the living room, scoop up the socks in the hallway as I head for the bathroom, and then wipe the counter before I leave. Soon my eyes became accustomed to looking for something to tidy everywhere I went.

The same truth applies to my spiritual house, as well. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by needs calling for physical healings, financial miracles, or emotional make-overs, everywhere I go.

Jesus suggests I tidy life spiritually as I go. I could improve things for those around me if I made an effort to offer a quick prayer for someone here, loosened the hold on my wallet there, or gave a smile of encouragement, a word of praise or a helping hand of some kind or another wherever needed.

One hot day at the zoo recently I was walking up a steep pathway with my husband and kids. A woman beside me was struggling to get a double stroller leaded with two toddlers and all the accompanying paraphernalia up the hill. She was pushing with all her might and barely moving. God told me to grab the front handlebar and help her along. And that's what He wants us to do spiritually, as well. If we lighten the burden of the one walking beside us, we'll both make it over whatever mountains stand in our way.

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
(Galatians 6:2)

Friday, April 29, 2011

The cover of Newsweek Magazine said it best: In a world gone to hell - thank God, a wedding.

How wonderful for one day to have something to think about besides tornadoes and tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and government take-downs, gas price hikes and NATO air strikes. I'm grateful today for the reminder to believers that in the end all the turmoil will boil down to the ultimate "royal" wedding of a Bride to her Groom.

Jesus will wear the crown, and we, the wedding gown.

Lord, hasten the day!

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24 NIV)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guard Your Heart

We guard certain aspects of our lives so carefully. We lock our cars, put security systems in our houses, and deposit our money in banks. Yet we leave our hearts, the very wellspring of our lives, open and vulnerable to the devil, who sneaks in like a criminal to take what belongs to us! How wonderful it would be if alarms would sound when our spiritual motion detectors sensed the enemy moving our way. Too often he slips in silently while we’re as yet unawares, stealing our peace, our joy, our time, our marriages and our finances before we even realize that the damage has been done.

Many would be the conditions that might trigger those alarm bells in our spirits. Our monitoring system would capture bad thoughts the moment they come into our consciousness so they could be eliminated before our mind has a chance to dwell on them. Likewise we’d know to turn away from wrong companions before we’re tempted to be yoked to them. The dangers of idleness would be apparent before we allowed our spirits to likewise slip into spiritual laziness and sleep.

God gave us such a security system in the Holy Spirit, whose job it is to warn and lead and guide us, thus protecting us against such threats. Perhaps our problem is that we’ve turned the volume down so low that we no longer hear His voice in time to protect the treasure we hold in our souls.

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”

(Proverbs 4:23 NKJV)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gold Mine

While hiking one spring day in the desert near Apache Junction, Arizona, my sister-in-law shared with me the local legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. While many versions of the story exist, they revolve around a German prospector named Jacob Waltz who struck gold in a rich mine in the nearby Superstition Mountains. Waltz eventually fell ill and died, disclosing the location of the mine only to a neighbor who helped him in his last days. Unable to find the mine herself, she supposedly sold copies of a map to others who wanted to give the hunt a try. To date the mine’s location remains a mystery, if it exists at all.

That morning as I looked up at the mountain peaks looming before me I laughed because “gold” was clearly visible, everywhere I looked, The green sloping hillsides were covered in brilliantly blooming bands of Mexican golden poppies , interlacing the patches of beautiful purple lupine.

So many people today are likewise looking for earthly riches of one type or another, following directions from others who are as confused and empty-handed as they are themselves. Yet I was reminded of the scriptures in God’s map, the Bible, which point the way to true wealth. Like the wildflowers on the mountain slopes, all of God’s treasures are likewise in plain view if we have eyes to see them, a heart to seek Him, and ears to hear His voice.

“My son, give me your heart and let your eyes observe and delight in my ways,”
(Proverbs 23:26 AMP)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fully Charged

The evangelist picked up the wireless microphone, turned to face the congregation, and began to speak. The crowd looked at him blankly as no sound whatsoever came out of the speakers. With a quick glance at the man working in the sound booth, he checked the mike in his hand and tried once more. Again there was no sound. Soon it was determined that the battery in the microphone was dead, and the search began for a fresh one to replace it.

How sad if we in the church likewise find ourselves with a message to share but no power to deliver it! The Holy Spirit is the power source that takes mere words and shoots them like darts past listening ears to find their mark in the hearts of those who hear them. All of us believers are ministers of God’s grace to the people around us. Yet if we’re not full of the Holy Spirit our evangelistic efforts fall as flat as if we’re using a microphone with a dead battery.

In the week following this incident I bought an extra battery and stuck it in my purse in case we should ever encounter the same situation in church again. It reminds me that it’s my responsibility to stay full of the Holy Ghost - fully charged - that I might have the power to minister effectively whenever the occasion arises.

“Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame…”
(2 Kings 19:26 NIV)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Full Assurance

Finally admitting to myself the need for more exercise in my life, I’d gotten into the habit of walking a mile or two every day. On one particular day I found myself with an hour to spare before the evening’s church service started, so drove to the park and began to hike. The day was warm, the exercise strenuous, and I soon found myself sweating as I made my way at last back to the car for the drive to the church building. With neither time nor opportunity to shower again before the service began, I found myself keeping my distance from people and reluctant to hug their necks, fearful that I might offend somebody with possible body odor.

Perhaps that’s why we’re sometimes hesitant to draw close to God. We know where we’ve been in life and what we’ve been doing, and we’re afraid that God might find us offensive as a result. So we keep our distance, worshiping him from afar when He longs for us to draw close enough to be touched by His love.

The solution in both instances is simply to wash ourselves clean. Just as a little soap and water take care of the problems caused by sweating on a hot day, the Blood of the Lamb likewise washes away our sin when we confess our need of cleansing and ask God to make us right with Him once more. Then we can draw as near to Him as we desire and be assured of being pulled into His warm embrace.

“…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22 NIV)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The First and the Last

The cardinals are the first hungry songbirds to visit my birdfeeders each morning. Daylight is usually still moments away when I first see them hopping from branch to branch, looking for leftover birdseed from the day before and checking to see if the feeders have yet been refilled for the day ahead. They’re likewise the last birds to come by at night, looking for a last snack before heading to their nests for the night. Day or night, they’re my favorite of all the birds that come to feed each day. Their brilliant red coloring and saucy crest attracts me like none other.

God is also the First and the Last in my day. Early in the morning, before the sun is up, I find Him eagerly awaiting our time together. He provides me with the nourishment I need for that day alone, promising to meet me again on the morrow with grace for that day, as well. He is also the last thought on my mind at night, the last person I speak to as I voice my thanks for the day’s blessings, answered prayers, and the sacrifice that was made on my behalf. My sleep is sweeter when it begins with whispered words of love to the One my heart chooses above all others.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13 NIV)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pizza Party in the House of God

Tuesday night is pizza night at our house, and as I entered our local pizza parlor to pick up our order, a sign on the door caught my eye. “Come in hungry,” it said. No problem there – my stomach had been growling for food for the past thirty minutes. Pizza is great anytime, but it’s especially satisfying when one’s body is calling out for food.

Come in hungry. What a great message that would be to post on our church doors, as well! Having recently started a new job that requires me to work on Sundays, my attendance of late at our regular services has been sporadic at best. As a result, I know what it’s like to be hungry for a good worship service. This negative aspect of my otherwise enjoyable employment has been found to have a definite up side – I appreciate the opportunity to be in church like never before! While I was careful to read my Bible, pray and listen to preaching tapes when I couldn’t attend, I found that there is nothing like corporate praise, prayer and the preaching of the Word to satisfy a spiritually starved soul.

There are certain aspects of church attendance that I no longer take for granted. I hug necks and spend extra time in conversation with people that I used to just wave to in passing, as I find that I’ve been craving the fellowship of other believers. I delight in the nuggets of truth God sets before me to feast on in the pastor’s message. And I feed off the excitement, inspiration and joy to be found in our worship service like never before. Spiritual food simply tastes better when you’re hungry for God.

As I exited the pizza parlor with two steaming boxes in hand, I noticed that the reverse side of the sign on the door said, “Come back soon.” Next Tuesday I may find myself back at one or another of the many pizza places in town…but next Sunday will definitely find me back at church!

Thankfully I don’t have to wait a week to taste again the presence of God. The door to His heart is always open, and He always has something wonderful to bring to the table when I come to visit.

Come in hungry. Come back soon. You’ll be glad you did.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

(Psalm 34:8 NIV)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fight to the Finish

It was a rather gruesome discovery. A landowner in northern Ohio was walking a trap line on his farm when he came across the bodies of two deer that had died after locking their antlers together in what was probably a territorial dispute. The smaller buck had sustained several severe injuries in the fight, including the broken neck that had killed it. But the larger of the two animals, although apparently winning the battle, lost his life as well. Unable to free himself from his opponent, the dead weight of the other animal on his head had forced his face and nostrils into the dirt, suffocating him.

Too often we do battle with others over what we perceive to be our rights or concerning issues that are insignificant in the long run. In the ensuing skirmish we may be victorious over our enemy and yet lose our own spiritual lives as well. The resentment we feel becomes a dead weight from which we are unable to shake free and which eventually smothers the very life of Christ in us. Just as the deer were unable to separate their antlers to free themselves, neither will we escape what we have coming to us if we harbor malice towards others.

The next time we're tempted to "lock horns" with someone we should remember that it could very well be a fight to the finish... for both of us.

"But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court..."
(Matthew 5:22 AMP)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eternal Consequences

I looked out the window and gasped. The snow that had blanketed the ground in an unbroken carpet of white now lay heaped in two ridges on either side of my newly plowed driveway! Using his bladed 4-wheeler, my neighbor had freed our vehicles from their weather-inflicted imprisonment in the garage.

I called to thank him and he brushed me off, reminding me of how I used to baby-sit his son in years gone by. Stunned, I protested, "But that was 15 to 20 years ago!"

A single dad fighting a bitter custody battle, he didn't want to leave his son unattended at morning bus stops or home alone on days when weather emergencies prompted early school closures. He'd asked if the boy could stay with me at such times. It was an easy way to help him out of a tough spot.

And now let a mere inch of snow fall from the sky and he plows it out of our way. Fruit baskets appear at our door every Christmas; mums and painted pumpkins come in the fall. He's watered our gardens and watched our pets when we've left town on vacation. He can't forget a simple kindness done for him so long ago.

If our actions in the physical realm have such far-reaching implications, imagine the result of the same in the spiritual one. My neighbor's favor will last only until we no longer live across the street from each other. But the rewards for good deeds done during our brief stay on earth are ours to enjoy all eternity long.

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

(Matthew 10:42 NIV)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Enemy at the Door

The church service was glorious as the ministry team worshipped the Lord in song, inspired the congregation with their testimonies, and later laughed and talked as they enjoyed punch and cookies in the fellowship hall. It was a wonderful night until one of the visitors tripped over the porch step as she was leaving the building, severely injuring her ankles. Moments later the joys of the evening were swallowed by the scream of the approaching sirens and the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles. Later someone mused, “The devil couldn’t get in the building, so he waited just outside the door.”

This woman’s physical experience can happen to us spiritually. We revel in the love of God in our lives or delight in His presence in our various ministry activities. The devil has no opportunity to harm us when we are so covered in God’s glory. But the minute we step from that spiritual experience into more secular surroundings we find that sin is sitting on our doorsteps, waiting to trip us up in some way. If we’re not careful we may take a fall that cripples us temporarily from walking in the gifts and callings that God has placed upon us.

The woman who fell didn’t know the porch step was there, nor did she see it as she exited the building. And so perhaps our best defense against the devil’s wiles is to be aware of our surroundings and to know that he’s out there, looking to bring us down. We’ll walk more carefully as a result and are more likely to remain standing on our spiritual feet.

"…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Doctor's Orders

A routine check-up at the doctor’s office brought to light the need to bring my records up to date.

“Blood work with fasting”, he said. My heart began to sink as I wondered what exactly he meant. As I was scheduling a time to have the blood drawn the receptionist reminded me, “No eating or drinking anything for 12 hours before the appointment.”

I knew I'd follow my doctor's orders despite my desire to eat because I know that the fasting is necessary to make the blood work come out right. And I need to remember that the same is true of God. When He tells me to fast, it’s to help purge me of things in my life that mess up the work His blood has done and that short circuit the results I desire to see. It's to teach discipline and reinforce submission to His authority, and to accomplish things that can’t be brought about by any other means.

Three times today I heard my doctor say, “Remember the fasting.” It was important enough for him to mention it several times. How many times does God have to say the same? Surely he means for me to listen. And it’s really so little to ask when I remember the blood Jesus shed on the cross for me.

When God says, “Remember the fasting,” it’s easier to do if I consider that in this case, the Blood work has already been done.

" And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dining Companions

A blue jay landed suddenly on the wire cage enclosing a suet cake, the action surprising me. That particular feeder is designed for birds that cling rather than perch, and on this particular morning a red-bellied woodpecker watched indignantly from a few feet away as the blue jay dined on the meal that was meant to be his. Finally willing to tolerate this trespass no longer, he flew directly at the feeder, scaring the bigger bird off in the process. He huffed and puffed his wings out a couple of times, looking to make sure the blue jay got the message, and proceeded to eat his fill.

A bully in the bird world, the blue jay scares off smaller birds and eats eggs out of their nests. He can be compared to the enemy of our souls, who likewise to steal that which is rightfully ours, destroying our young and stealing our joy, threatening us with his formidable appearance. Finally there comes a day when, fed up with his tactics, we stand up to him, taking back that which is rightfully ours and flexing the spiritual muscles we have through Christ inside of us. And when we do, the enemy takes off, because he recognizes an authority greater than his own.

God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies… but they're not meant to be our dinner guests. The next time the devil tries to pull out a chair at your banquet table, you have every right to shoo him away.

"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7b)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Destination Details

The travel journal that detailed my coworker’s recent trip to Germany was fascinating reading. Refusing to make travel arrangements ahead of time, he had simply taken each day as it came, following his nose as he explored little towns or navigated his way through the bigger cities. Repeatedly in his writings appeared the phrase, “It’s the journey, not the destination” as he reminded himself that it didn’t matter so much where he went on his vacation, as long as he had a good time doing it.

But what makes for interesting reading in a journal does not necessarily translate into good advice for living a spiritual life. Making our eternal destination secure is what allows us to enjoy our time on this earth while giving focus to our days and purpose to our existence. Without the issue of our final destination settled we find we wander through our lives as aimlessly as my friend wandered the streets of the towns he traveled through, accomplishing little of eternal value and thinking of little else besides our own wants and wishes.

Because my friend had made no plans in advance, a good portion of each vacation day was of necessity spent looking for where he would sleep that night. He had to find a place to stay before he was free to play. How wise it is settle the issue of where we’ll live eternally now, putting the details of our lives in God’s hands and freeing our own for whatever plans He may have for us each day.

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”

(Joshua 24:15 NIV)

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Box of Chocolates

The following devotional was written by Nancy Hamilton Sturm of Wichita, Kansas, and published in The Secret Place on February 13, 2010. She was gracious enough to let me post it today in honor of Valentine's Day. She is a wonderful inspirational writer - check out her blog at

Imagine that someone has given you a big box of chocolates. What is the first thing you do? Most of us would probably say thank you, open the box, and graciously offer the first piece to the giver of this scrumptious gift. Would you begrudge giving away that first piece of chocolate? No, of course not, for the rest of the candy would be yours to enjoy!

I think this is what God had in mind when he commanded us to tithe. God created the world, and all of creation is a gift from God. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual lives are also God's gift to us. God has given us a gigantic box of chocolates and would be pleased if we would, with cheerful hearts, say thank you and offer God the first piece.

"Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Come and Get It!"

"BREAKFAST!" I hollered as I flipped the last of the French toast onto a plate, hoping the sound would carry to the father and son watching cartoons together in the bedroom as well as to the brothers battling over video games in the basement. That one word meant "come and get it" to my waiting family, and soon the tromping of feet up the stairs and muffled laughter coming down the hallway told me that they'd heard and were acting in response.

I, too, was hungry this morning, but for something other than French toast and bacon. Needing to hear from God about a matter, I went to Him and explained what was troubling me. I knew He'd have an answer waiting for me. I even knew where to look for it. My hunger would not be satisfied in a meal at the kitchen table but rather in the pages of my Bible where I'd find His response and the necessary guidance on how to pray.

My family can tell from my yell and the smells coming from the kitchen that breakfast is ready. But their appetites won't be appeased until they make a move towards the table, pick up their forks and dig into the food set in front of them. Likewise I won't find the answers to satisfy my hungry soul until I come to the Bread of Life and begin to eat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Clean Slate

Golf courses don't take care of themselves. On a recent vacation our hotel room overlooked two sand traps on the edge of a long, par-4 hole. Each morning I noticed that they were in pitiful shape. An abundance of footprints left in the sand led to a variety of other conditions. There was a hole left by one frustrated golfer who had tried to blast his way out of the difficulty. Sand rakes were left where they'd fallen after others had attempted to cover the worst of their disturbances. But soon a course worker came along on a machine that erased all the evidence of yesterday's frustrations. He manicured the sand trap, leaving the sand smooth and even behind him.

At our request God daily grooms our spiritual lives in much the same way. When the events of each day are finished and before a new day dawns, He carefully erases the remnants of that day's mistakes so they won't cause us further problems tomorrow. He fills the holes we've dug for ourselves, and picks up the pieces of our lives that we've left scattered around us so we don't stumble over them as we again take to the field of play at the start of a new day. His careful work keeps today's damage from tripping us up tomorrow, allowing us to start each day with a clean slate.

" It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning…" (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Collection of Hearts

Heart-shaped Christmas ornaments have always caught my eye. I have quite a collection now, hearts of all different shapes and sizes, fabrics and textures. I remember how each came in to my possession - where it was purchased or which treasured friend gave it to me. Equally precious, they each remind me of a certain individual or a special moment in time. Someday I'd like to have a Christmas tree decorated solely in the love represented in that collection of hearts.

God has a heart collection, too. Like mine, His come in all colors, shapes, sizes and textures. While mine vary in appearance, each of His is unique in its condition. Some are hard, some are tender; others are contrite while some have a stubborn, rebellious streak. Many came to Him in pieces that He lovingly put back together or replaced completely with a new an better version. Equally precious to Him as they are, He yet remembers the moment in time when each was given to Him and the face behind the extended hands. And He's waiting for the day when His collection will be put on display for the entire world to see.

As I hang my tokens of love on my tree each Christmas, may I remember that so many years ago on another Holy Day, God displayed His love by allowing His Heart to be hung on a tree for me.

" The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus,
Whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree (cross)."

(Acts 5:30 AMP)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Brownies for Breakfast

A youth group gathering at my friend's home one afternoon recently prompted me to bake a batch of brownies for my sons to bring along. My friend approached me the next day and said, "Thanks for breakfast this morning! I ate the brownies that were leftover after the meeting last night!"

Brownies for breakfast. It sounded so good to me that I had the same thing today. There's nothing like the chocolate chewiness of a brownie to complement a cup of hot coffee, consumed while enjoying a beautiful morning out on one's back deck.

My spiritual breakfasts with the Lord are a lot like that. There's nothing more delicious than a fresh word from God - a lesson He speaks to me out of the experiences of my life, a word He wants me to voice to someone else, or a Scripture verse that perfectly completes a thought He expressed to me at some earlier point in time. But not all my mornings are like that. Some days He makes me eat oatmeal - good for me, but kind of bland. On other days He fixes bacon and eggs - a lesson with a little more meat in it. But sometimes He lets me eat brownies. On those days He gives me something that thrills me long after our "breakfast" together is over.

It's the bread and meat He brings to our spiritual mealtimes that sustain us, but it’s the hope of brownies for breakfast that keeps us coming to the table.

"...crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2-3 NIV)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Blistered Heel

Smiling in delight and anticipation, my husband laced up his new golf shoes before heading off for his first round of golf for the year. But after nine holes of play he was walking with a decided limp. His new footwear had rubbed a raw spot on the back of his right heel.

Many of us approach a new season in our spiritual walk with as much excitement as my husband took to the links that spring morning. But sometimes the friction we encounter from people and circumstances as we walk in the new shoes God’s given us to wear can likewise leave a sore spot in our spirits that hinders our ability to function effectively for a time. As I watched my husband apply a bandage to his blistered heel before putting on his shoes this morning I realized anew the importance of covering our hurt spots with prayer before taking more steps in any direction, that wounds inflicted upon us would heal quickly and not fester or further impede our spiritual progress.

His blister long gone, my husband’s shoes now fit comfortably and cause him no further problems. When we’re hurt may we experience a similar emotional healing and spiritual strengthening so that our hearts will be less susceptible to any painful circumstances surrounding us as we travel on down the road.

"Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me."
(Psalm 41:9 NIV)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beyond Measure

Every workday for several years I trudged through the woods of the Pacific Northwest and spent eight hours measuring trees. While each day was different in terms of weather, the terrain to be traversed and the density of the undergrowth I had to clamber through, my duties were always the same. As a forester in the employ of a private paper company, my job was to measure the height and breadth of whatever trees fell within the limits of my circular plots. The numbers I obtained would later be plugged into various computer systems that would calculate the volume of wood on the land and enable my employer to make an estimate on the value of each particular stand of trees.

Now many years later I realize that what I did so regularly in my profession is impossible to do with God. There is simply no way to measure His worth. The love of God is limitless and His benefits incalculable. Advanced as our computer systems are today, there’s not one that can put a value on the peace of mind, physical and spiritual health and prosperity that are found in a relationship with Him. And while we try to express it in various ways, the goodness of God is something we can’t conceive in our minds so much as know in our hearts.

"...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love..."
(Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Abounding in Love

Our Wednesday night church service took a somber turn when a middle-age man came to the front of the sanctuary to speak to the pastor. Sobbing, he said that he’d just been told that his son had been killed in a car wreck in a nearby town. He’d been asked to come to the mortuary and identify the body, but he had no gas money to get there. Our minister hugged the man, cried along with him, and then asked if he’d like him to go with him on his gruesome task. Shaking his head no, he wiped his eyes, thanked the congregation for the money that had quickly been gathered and shoved into his pocket while the men of the church gathered around him in prayer, and left the building.

Some days later we found out that the whole situation had been a hoax. Some in the congregation were angry to learn that they’d been taken advantage of by a con man who played on the sympathies of a compassionate crowd to raise a few dollars for himself. But my husband suggested that perhaps the scenario had been a test to see how we would react to someone needing our help. It reminded us of the “secret shoppers” who come to the grocery store in which I work. Their identities a secret, they act like regular customers and then later grade the employees on how well they performed their duties.

It’s better to lose some cash in a con game of some sort than to have God find us lacking in compassion in a true time of need.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
(Hebrews 13:2 RSV)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lit from Within

The stained glass windows of the little church attracted my attention. Although I’d driven through the village many times before, I’d never done so at night, and so had never seen the building lit up from within as it was by the church service going on inside. Truly the windows sparkled like jewels on the darkened street and beautified the whole town as a result.

My perspective of stained glass windows has always been from inside a church building. I’ve often marveled at their splendor as sunlight has streamed in through them on a gorgeous day. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen how beautiful they are at night, when lit by the lights inside the building.

We Christians are likewise the stained glass windows of society, beautifying the world around us when we allow the light of God inside of us to light our countenance and enhance our surroundings, everywhere we go.

During the daylight hours, the windows of the little church look like those on any of the other buildings in the town. But in the nighttime hours they glow with a beauty beyond anything the others have to offer. And likewise it is in the dark hours of our troubled times that the light of God within us causes us to stand out, shining forth through us in incomparable beauty to a watching world.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

(Matthew 5:16 KJV)

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Jesus-loves-you lady died a few days ago.

I never knew her real name, nor did any of my fellow grocery store employees except the one bagger who was distantly related to her and through whom we learned of her sudden death. Yet everyone recognized her the minute she came through our lines because she ended every transaction with the same "Jesus loves you" declaration...every time, every shopping trip. She never failed.

Although at first a little awkward, her faithful proclamations soon made her an endearing figure about the place. Sometimes one bagger in particular would see her coming and blurt out her message before she ever got a chance to, almost as a form of greeting. And I realized that eventually she didn't need to say it at all - she was so linked to those three words that the mere sight of her delivered the message without her even having to open her mouth. Clearly she had accomplished her mission on this earth, so the Jesus Who loved her simply gathered her in His arms one day shortly before Christmas and took her on Home, a reminder to those of us she leaves behind that when our to-do list is likewise complete, we can surely expect the same.

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
(Acts 20:24 RSV)

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