Monday, October 16, 2017

Depend On God Alone

It is a brilliantly sunny Monday morning. Though it is a chilly start to the day, the sunshine offers a promise of warming. And I love to be warm. Yesterday we were outside in a very brisk northwest wind. The sun's power didn't seem strong until we got in the car. The wind was blocked and the heat of the rays penetrated the glass to offer a toasty shelter. It was so appreciated!

My personal thermostat is fickle, if not completely haywire. The house can be the same temperature day in and day out but sometimes I shake with chills while other times I break into a sweat or feel perfectly comfortable.

Weather is one of the most changeable things I know. Especially when you plan something outdoors. In Iowa. Or on vacation. It seems whenever we plan a vacation in some warm climate we end up with  the rainiest, grayest days they have ever experienced. There was the time we left for the Wisconsin Dells before sunrise and drove through a flash flood in Cedar Rapids. Or when we visited Montana in July and it snowed in the mountains. We spent several rainy, cool days in San Francisco last year and this year it rained daily on the beaches of South Carolina.

"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:7-8 NIV).

I am so thankful for Jesus who is my constant, unchanging, perfect Savior. I know Him and I can come to Him in any state and He will receive me with open arms, ready to offer correction, forgiveness, and unmerited grace and love. Who else is as trustworthy as our God? Certainly not the weatherman. There is No One like Him.

Father God, I ask You to spread Your unwavering love over us today. The world is in such a mess because it tries to function without You. Help us to seek You first every day. Draw us near and hold us with Your warm and loving arms. We need You alone, God. In the Name of Your Precious Son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

God's Powerful Touch

Last month we took a vacation to the to the east coast of South Carolina and Georgia. I wanted to experience the ocean. We had seen the ocean on trips to Boston and points north; the Gulf from west Florida and Galveston; San Diego, San Francisco, and along the west coast in California and Oregon. I had touched my toes in the water a few times but never taken a full body dip.

The first night we took a long walk along the beach, listening to the repetitive rush of the water, feeling the sand between our toes, watching the frothy waves curl up and then diminish and fall away as they teased the shoreline. The next day we dressed for the water. We strolled into the water up to our knees, watching others run into the waves, jump over the caps and stand in the depths. It took one more time for me to be brave enough to enter the ocean's expanse.

I wanted to experience the waves and feel God's power. I was not disappointed. Hand in hand we advanced past the foamy waves, into the apparent stillness of the water that stretched to the infinity of the horizon. Suddenly a wall of water lurched up and crashed onto our heads and shoulders. Besides the element of complete surprise, we instantly shared the taste of salt water on our lips as we wiped the water from our smiling faces.

"You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me;" (Jonah 2:3 NIV).

It was amazing. Out of the calm came such power and force that we were knocked off our feet and swept toward the beach. We learned to brace ourselves for the next wave, but even so, we were no match for the forceful surge of the wall of water that smashed into us. We would barely recover before another crest appeared, over and over and over; a marvelous wonder of God's creation.

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me," (Psalm 42:7 NIV).

Father God, all around us Your creation touches us: the pounding waves, the gentle breeze, the changing leaves, the bountiful harvest...You are in them all. Thank you for giving us these beautiful hints of Who You Are. We are so blessed. We offer You, O Holy One, our honor and praise, for You Alone are our God. Amen.

Monday, October 9, 2017

God's Masterpiece is You

As I looked out at the beautiful sunrise this morning and noticed the beads of moisture on the brilliant green grass, as the north wind moved the branches in a resistant sway, I thanked God for the wonder of His Creation. I heard the geese honking overhead as they glided onto a nearby pond and my heart swelled with love for my precious Lord and Savior. Thank you for this day, Lord.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do," (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV).

It is hard for me to think about being God's workmanship when I am so often alert only to my flaws and my failures. Yet, God considers us worthy and valuable to His Master plan. He has prepared good works for us to do in our lives. He has given us the gift of grace through Jesus Christ that makes our sinful selves acceptable to our God who requires perfection.

Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us the gift of grace and salvation. We are forgiven of our sins and Christ's blood covers our imperfections. We are given the freedom to stand before God with our arms lifted in praise and thanksgiving and He sees us as His very own Masterpiece. It is God's workmanship that makes us unique individuals who are integrated into His eternal plan.

Today I will try to view myself as God sees me - without blemish, in the best possible light! Then I will have confidence in God as I move forward to do the good works He has prepared for me to do. Because the Gloria that God sees has the energy, the ability, the strength, and the holy direction to do anything He says to do, very well, indeed.

Lord, use me today. Help me to see myself through Your eyes. I want to be that "better me." I want to be Your Masterpiece. Amen.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Appreciation for Leaders

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, I believe. I don't know who established this or how it came to be, but it was a good idea that I almost forgot about. My home church always made a big deal of this, reminding the congregation and encouraging acts of kindness toward the pastor and family.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he recognized the need for leaders of the church to be respected and appreciated for their work in bringing the Word of God to the people. We have recently been studying the history of the church Reformation so the role of early church leaders is fresh in my mind. We have seen how many church leaders sacrificed their lives to make the scriptures accessible to common man and ultimately to you and me.

I am aware of the true privilege it is to live in America where we can line our shelves with Bibles of every translation and read the Word whenever and wherever we desire. I am so thankful for the opportunity to worship my Savior and hear the Word of God from the pulpit. My heart is grateful for the many pastors who have taught me in the past and those who continue to enlighten me today. Without the truth of the scriptures in my life, I would be lost, confused, and without purpose.

"Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else," (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 NIV).

Paul's closing comments in 1 Thessalonians remind us to revere our pastors and church leaders, but also to follow the teachings in scripture, modeling Jesus Christ in all our actions with others. We are to be encouragers, helpers, and kind representations of the church.

This month I plan to pray for my pastors and offer encouragement and appreciation to them for all the ways they bless me with the teachings of scripture.

Thank you, God, for the pastors who share Your truth and help the church grow in their relationship with You. Amen.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Heavy Hearts and Hope

I am so tired of disasters. That's a foolish thing to say but my heart is so heavy for the burdens of this world.  I am anxious to be free of this world and enter my heavenly home where there is only joy, giving praise to God, worship and music for the Lord!

We awoke to another story of terror - the Las Vegas shootings. There is no explanation for this man's anger or evil this morning. There is no reason for the deaths and injuries of those country music fans who chose to attend an open air concert last night. The shooter didn't even know those he killed and injured. They were random victims of horrible terror. Those who survived will be forever haunted by the sound of a machine gun's shots and the possible danger of gathering with large numbers of people. Will they ever feel safe and innocent again?

Our continent has been ravaged by natural disasters repeatedly throughout the past months. Hurricane Harvey sent destructive flood waters over Houston and the surrounding area. Wildfires have been burning all summer in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and beyond. An earthquake destroyed parts of Mexico. More hurricanes hit the resort islands in the Atlantic, followed by Hurricane Maria hitting Florida and devastating Puerto Rico.

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God," (Psalm 42:11 NIV).

Lord God, I pray for all those who are hurting today: physically, mentally and spiritually. May they search for Your peace and comfort and may their physical needs be met by the love of caring givers and volunteers. Lord, in the middle of these disasters may You be present to bring them hope in the name of Jesus.

"Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near," (Revelation 1:3 NIV).

Lord, we know Your return is coming someday, and it seems like the signs are appearing more and more frequently. Keep us alert and help us draw others to You, so they can be with us when Your time of Glory is near.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, 
who was, and is, and is to come," 
(Revelation 4:8c NIV).

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Be Lifted Up!

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my sinfulness. I feel so inadequate when I stand before God and reveal my mistakes and shortfalls. But the burdens of the past get too heavy to carry around every day. I need to drop them at His feet and pick up His forgiveness and accept the freedom Jesus Christ won for me when He went to the cross.

But, it isn't always easy. My feet get tangled up in the bag's strings and I end up dragging my burdens behind me. That is exhausting. So, I end up sitting down to mope.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up," (James 4:10 NIV).

My personality has made it easy to humble myself before God and everyone else. I grew up with a low self esteem and it was incredibly hard for me to believe that God could love me. I had to realize that God created me. He made me to be the way I am. He knew before I was born what my life would entail. He saw the mistakes I would make. He knew I would have struggles and He knew I would seek Him. And He knew that I would find Him.

God does the same for you. He wants each of His children to come to Him, to desire Him, and to live their lives for Him. On bended knee I come to Him, begging for His forgiveness, surrendering myself before Him, asking Him to lead me in His will today, tomorrow, and every day I may have to live.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you," (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV).

God will reach down and lift you up to your feet so you can walk ahead and live the ultimate life He has prepared for you with Jesus Christ.

May you realize His truth and His love in your life today and always.

Monday, September 25, 2017

First Place in Your Life

Who has first place in your life?

Oh, come on. That's not a fair question to ask on a Monday morning. When there is a list of things to do a mile long and the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day outside...and I'd rather be taking a walk, enjoying the weather than going to work or writing this blog. I went to church yesterday. What more do you ask of me?

I read a devotional this morning and I prayed for the readers of this blog, asking God to give me a message that will speak to you today. But, I'm asked, "Who has first place in my life?" Ouch. If I'm honest it probably isn't even my husband. It is probably me. I do what I want to do most often.

When I put Jesus first in my life, everything changes. My priorities are different. God comes first. My thoughts are completely God-centered. I am God-motivated, love-infused, kindness-filled, and service-focused. That would be a different woman than I am most days. Because I am a sinner I will always fall short of the goal. What I strive for and always fall short of is the perfection of Jesus.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well," (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

This scripture is within a passage where Jesus teaches about worry, so that theme may be the subject for another day. However, this one verse deserves to be the focus today. It sets up a pattern for us...put God first in our lives. Before we do anything else, our focus needs to be on Jesus/God. We must make a choice to give God first place in our lives. And we need to make that choice new every day, especially on Mondays!

When we worry, we are to go to God first for the answer. When we need help, God is the One to turn to. If we do, He will help us set priorities, according to His desires and His will. He will be our Guide throughout the day. He will be our Comforter, our Protector, our Wisdom, our Conscience, our Worship Leader and our Encourager.

Who has first place in your life today? Make it Jesus and you will have a wonderful day!