Follow Closely

Do I follow what God tells me closely?

It is easy for me to forget when I am distracted. If someone were to ask me about my following, I think I would then remember and be able to say what I should do. In the chaos of the moment, however, I may forget when distraction comes into play, and my mind wanders from the truth.

The psalmist said, "I pay careful attention as You lead me, and I follow closely."

May God give us strength to follow Him.

 

 

Not Ashamed

 

 

 I am not ashamed of the gospel,

because it is the power of God

for the salvation of everyone who believes:

first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

For in the gospel a righteousness from God

is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith

from first to last, just as it is written:

"The righteous will live by faith."

Romans 1:16,17

 

 

Confidence

We’ve all been there.

Something happened and it’s our fault. Perhaps it was the broken flower pot when you were seven years old or the bent fender when you were seventeen.  A feeling of dread may have come over you, encompassing every thought. You were going to have to tell that particular someone and you just weren’t sure if they would forgive you or not.

The fact is, throughout all our lives, there have probably been those who did not forgive us when we failed. Our worst expectations came true.  Gratefully, there have likely been those who have accepted us graciously, assuring us and comforting us when we were the true cause of a particular difficulty.

God is like that, isn’t He? He acknowledges our botched efforts, our frail design and our great discouragements. We need not become filled with fear and dread when we realize our mistakes. With a repentant heart, we can approach Him with freedom and with confidence. He accepts us graciously, assuring us of His forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

One Calling in the Desert

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying,

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

   "A voice of one calling in the desert,

   ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
      make straight paths for him.’ "

 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Matthew 3:1-6

 

 

A Light Has Dawned

I remember when the light dawned.

I was in college, and things were working out as planned. The problem was, I hadn’t asked God what He had planned—for me. It took about one semester for me to realize the emptiness of life without a relationship with Him. I no longer wanted to live as though I were a steel sphere in a pin ball machine, being bolted from one side of the playing field to the other by a random whack of a lever. There had to be more—-and there was.

When I came to understand that I needed forgiveness and restoration, healing and guidance, I began the journey to wholeness. A light had dawned where darkness and emotional confusion had reigned. God met me where I was and brought me back to where I needed to be. I stayed at college, but things were different. I was a newly forgiven student, looking to God for direction.

Did I continue to fail and make mistakes? Yes. Did God leave me? No.

If your life resembles that of a pin ball, freedom is only a prayer away. God is ready to hear and forgive.

Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for me. I believe He died to pay the price for all my sin and failure. Guide me each day from now on and help me to live my life for You.

 

Desert

 

 

I hadn’t really planned to visit the hospital today.

Plans do change, however, and I found myself sitting with our son in the emergency room. After five hours had passed, we were allowed to go home.

Home. What a wonderful place it can be at times. Times like leaving a hospital and yearning for the comfort and familiarity of your own bed.

Just as we were leaving this afternoon to take our son to the hospital, I quickly picked up a gift I had been given only yesterday. It was a New Testament with writings of Max Lucado on John 3:16. As we waited in the sterile surroundings of the ward, I read each contemplation by Mr. Lucado. I also began reading from Hebrews. Much of what I read comforted me as God’s great love for mankind was discussed within the pages.

Even in the unknown "desert" atmosphere of medical facility, God is there.

He comforts.

He assures.

He abides.

 

Enjoy the Light

What does redeem mean?

The dictionary says:

To compensate for the faults or bad aspects of something;

Atone or make ammends for;

Save from sin, error or evil;

Do something that compensates for poor past performance or behavior;

Gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment;

 

In accepting Christ as our Savior, He redeems us.

He compensates for our faults and our bad aspects.

He makes amends for us.

He saves us from evil.

He compensates for our poor performance and behavior.

We gain the possession of life everlasting in exchange for His payment on the cross.

Seeing that He has redeemed us, why not live? Live to enjoy the light…..

 

The Fish of the Sea

I live in an adventurous place—not quite tropical, but almost. The movie, "The African Queen" was filmed perhaps a 20 minute drive from my home. Fascinating creatures have become almost commonplace as casual encounters happen almost on a daily basis. Lizard on the window? Alligator near the boardwalk? Three foot crane near the back door? Gopher turtle on the patio? So what else is new?

In becoming so well acquainted with the animal life around me, I have learned a great deal about their habits. I still have one question: why do they do the things that they do? How do they possess the abilities they so perfectly display?

Seasonal birds appear each year to flock in the lawns. How do they know that it’s time to return?

I have wondered about the communication between God and animals. Are they acutely aware of the presence of their Creator? Certainly, it is God who places their wisdom and instincts within their minds.

In the book of Job, these statements are made:

 

 

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
       or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
       or let the fish of the sea inform you.

 Which of all these does not know
       that the hand of the LORD has done this?

 In his hand is the life of every creature
       and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

In case we were ever wondering, the animals could tell us—there IS a God and He holds our very lives in His hand.

Rewarder

I had the priviledge of attending an awards ceremony this evening at our son’s high school. Many accolades were given as students were called to the stage. Both parents and dignitaries alike were gathered to congratulate those invited to the ceremony.

Rarely, a name would be called, yet no one would come forward to accept the honor. They simply were not present to recieve that which had been designated for them alone. Each time this would occur, I sensed a disappointment in the air–a feeling of loss for the person who had missed their opportunity to be recognized.

Did you know that you have recieved an award? God has so loved and honored you, that He gave His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross in your place, to pay the penalty for your sin—allowing you an entrance into Heaven for eternity. Not only you have recieved this award, but all of mankind.

Sadly, many of those who Jesus died for will not redeem their eternal award of life everlasting with God. Why? Because they will not have ever accepted the honor—they will not have accepted forgiveness and embraced the love of One who so freely forgives.

There will be much sadness and mourning at the loss.

…He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. (from Hebrews 11:6)

Excuse me….didn’t I just hear your name called?

 

 

 

The Standards

 

 

 

 We can make our own plans,
      but the Lord gives the right answer.

 People may be pure in their own eyes,
      but the Lord examines their motives.

 Commit your actions to the Lord,
      and your plans will succeed.

  The Lord has made everything for his own purposes,
      even the wicked for a day of disaster.

  The Lord detests the proud;
      they will surely be punished.

  Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin.
      By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil.

  When people’s lives please the Lord,
      even their enemies are at peace with them.

  Better to have little, with godliness,
      than to be rich and dishonest.

  We can make our plans,
      but the Lord determines our steps.

  The king speaks with divine wisdom;
      he must never judge unfairly.

  The Lord demands accurate scales and balances;
      he sets the standards for fairness.

Proverbs 16:1-11   NLT

 

All My Fears

 

As I was reading the text for a group book study I am currently involved in, one statement stood out to me. Simply put, it states, "Stress is another word for fear."  

Really?  It is so common to hear, "I’m just under a lot of stress right now."    "I’m really stressing out."   "The stress of my job is getting to me."  Confessions like these usually bring understanding and acknowledgement, coupled with empathy. We’ve all been there.

Could we truly insert the word "fear" in place of stress and still adequately describe what is going on?

I never hear, "I’m just under a lot of fear right now."  "I’m really afraid."  "The fear of my job is getting to me."   If it’s the same thing, why don’t we hear those words?  Does fear denote weakness in a way that stress seemingly does not? Are we less than perfect if we fear? Are we merely human if we are stressed?

In every case, God has not left us alone. We may bring our stress or fear to Him at any moment. He is ready to help us through it, delivering us from it’s grasp.

 

 

Honor the Lord

 

Exactly what is it that you own?

A quick inventory might include a home and some type of vehicle. You might list some furniture and appliances, a computer and some clothing. Thinking further, items like books, photos, or dishes could be added.

No matter what you may own, it is God that has enabled you to prosper. He has provided us with the means to acquire our worldly possessions. Not only that, He has given us time, abilities, and talents to use as we choose. What should we do in return?

Each aspect of our lives should reflect thankfulness from a grateful heart, realizing that what we "own" is simply a gift from God, imparted to us for a time to use as we will.

Each day we have oppportunities to offer back to God that which He has given us.

What do you own?

 

 

Wisest of the Wise

 

There are four small creatures,
   wisest of the wise they are—
      ants—frail as they are,
   get plenty of food in for the winter;
      marmots—vulnerable as they are,
         manage to arrange for rock-solid homes;
      locusts—leaderless insects,
         yet they strip the field like an army regiment;
      lizards—easy enough to catch,
         but they sneak past vigilant palace guards.

Proverbs 30:24-28     The Message

 

 

The Highway

 

How much better to get wisdom than gold,
       to choose understanding rather than silver!

  The highway of the upright avoids evil;
       he who guards his way guards his life.

  Pride goes before destruction,
       a haughty spirit before a fall.

  Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed
       than to share plunder with the proud.

  Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
       and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.

Proverbs 16:16-20

 

 

 

My Requests

 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
       in the morning I lay my requests before you
       and wait in expectation.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
       let them ever sing for joy.
       Spread your protection over them,
       that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:3,11

 

 

 

His Love Endures

 

God loved me from the beginning—long before I acknowledged my need for Him.

This love of God will endure forever.

He freed me from the enemy’s hold on me—He gave me a new life.

This love of God will endure forever.

God not only cares for us, but He provides for the creatures He placed on the earth.

This love of God will endure forever.

Knowing all this, I am thankful to God–the God of Heaven, the God of all that exists.

This love of God will endure forever.

Praise His holy Name!

 

 

An Easy Thing

 

When God is at work in our lives, He may choose to act in ways that are not commonplace. In fact, He may choose to act in miraculous ways—ways that we might not think of.

In reading the story from II Kings, chapter 3 in the Bible, God is saying that there will be water for the people and the animals to drink. When water is needed, the "natural" remedy is rainfall. God says that they will "see neither wind nor rain."  He goes on to say that this is an easy thing for Him. He tells the people to dig ditches. This would’ve  been in preparation for God’s promised provision.

There are times that we find ourselves doubting God. We may feel that He wants us to do something before we feel we are properly prepared to do so. What if He asks us to dig the ditch even when He says that we will see no rain? Can we trust that the water will come in a supernatural way, only possible with God?

What is impossible with man is an "easy thing in the eyes of the LORD."

 

 

The Tongue

 

"Why did I say that?"

"Why didn’t I say that?"

"I wish I hadn’t said that!"

"If only I had said that!"

"I didn’t mean to say that."

"Will I have a chance to say something."

"I don’t want to say anything."

Does it seem futile to try to control our words? All of us have regrets about what we have said in the past. Hopefully, we also feel a joy and a peace about having said some very good things in our lives. How can we make the positive times out-number the negative ones?

Praying and asking for God’s help RIGHT IN THE MIDST of a conversation could rescue many a sour word. Careful consideration of another’s feelings is paramount when speach is concerned. Words can wound–yet they can also heal.

James tells us that, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue."  (James 3:7a)

 

 

To the South or to the North

Ecclesiates 11:1-6  from THE MESSAGE

 

 Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns.

  Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around.
   Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.

  When the clouds are full of water, it rains.
   When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls.
   Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work.
   Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life.

  Just as you’ll never understand
      the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman,
   So you’ll never understand
      the mystery at work in all that God does.

  Go to work in the morning
      and stick to it until evening without watching the clock.
   You never know from moment to moment
      how your work will turn out in the end

 

 

 

My Requests

 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
       in the morning I lay my requests before you
       and wait in expectation.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
       let them ever sing for joy.
       Spread your protection over them,
       that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:3,11

 

 

 

I Remember Your Name

 

 

Do you ever lay in bed at night just thinking about the events of the day?

Many years ago, I attended a conference retreat. The speaker asked, "Don’t your problems get bigger at night?" I think we all understood. When we are all alone, surrounded by darkness and quiet, our minds can tend to drift toward every worry and concern. The tasks of the day that temporarily removed our fears from the forefront of our consciousness have all been completed. The thoughts that weigh us down float freely to the surface and demand immediate attention.

What if? Why? When?   Questions form within us and bounce from one idea to another. If sleep prevails upon our busy minds, the concerns may often follow us into our dreams.

What should we do when we find ourselves awake and worrying?

God is with us, so we truly are not alone. We can begin to ask Him to remove the fears from our thoughts. As we pray, we can begin to focus on Him and His wisdom and care. But what if we are so disturbed over a matter that it seems too hard to pray? Simply saying, "Jesus" is a powerful prayer. At the Name of Jesus every knee will one day bow. There is strength in the Name of Jesus.

When you are troubled, remember His Name.

You are not alone.

 

 

 

Oil of Gladness

A good friend shared this scripture with me. In researching it a bit, I found that the ministry of Jesus at His first coming is described in Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2a and at the time of His second coming in verses 2b-3.  These are precious words indeed.

 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.

 

 

 

Since Ancient Times

 

I hadn’t planned on going.

As I was checking my email at work, I received a message inviting all the employees to visit a new garden area at the facility. I decided to adjust my day accordingly and stroll out to see it.  The flowers were lovely. The plants were thriving, glowing in the late morning sunshine. As I photographed one interesting bloom after another, my eyes were drawn to a very busy butterfly. He was surely not in a hurry, but his actions were quick and energetic. He visited one spot for only a second or two, then on to another, then another. I stood at a distance with my camera, so as not to frighten him away. The orange hue of his wings seemed most pronounced to my unshaded vision.

As I viewed my photos later, I realized how beautiful he actually was. His colored markings were brilliant. I was blessed to see such a delicately beautiful creature. When I arrived at work, I had no idea that I would later be enjoying those calm and quiet moments, surrounded by beauty.

God is there for us each day, each hour. As we trust in Him, He leads us through our lives with a dialogue of love. As we read His word, He brings instruction and comfort. As we experience a walk in a garden, a card from a friend or a hug from a child, He speaks to us. He acts on our behalf. There is no one greater in all of existance than our Heavenly Father and we–frail as we may be–are His precious sons and daughters.

 

 

Give Thanks

 

 

 

Are you facing any armies today?

Are you afraid or discouraged?

Stand firm.

Know that God will be with you.

II Chronicles, 15-21

He said: "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’ "

  Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with very loud voice.

  Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
       "Give thanks to the LORD,
       for his love endures forever."

 

 

 

 

The Fig Tree

 

 

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.   

Matthew 24:32-35

 

By Streams of Water

 

 

A few years ago, an elderly neighbor helped me to prepare the ground for a flower garden in my front yard. My friend knew a lot about plants and growing things. I did not.

As we talked during our work, she was impressed with the quality of the soil in the area we were transplanting flowers to. She made a statement like, "You can grow ANYTHING here."  We placed flower plants from her yard into the ground that day. It was a good thing.

Year after year, the flowers we planted would come up, Some would be colors completely different from the original group that we had set out. As time went on, my neighbor developed Altzheimer’s disease. She could no longer talk to me and share her life, yet the flowers continued to testify of her kindness.

My friend passed away a couple of months ago. Gone are the days when she would instruct me on the names of weeds or surprise me with a birthday present. The tree that existed in the garden area where we worked long ago is still standing strong, along with the array of pink and yellow blooms. The flowers will continue to remind me of her in years to come. She recognized the importance of investing time into the lives of others, just in everyday tasks and conversations.

The soil really was good. The plants have what they need in order to prosper. The tree is growing ever taller, with it’s smooth, almost barkless texture.

I wonder what God finds when He looks at me? Upon inspection, does He find a willing heart? Does He look within and say, "I can grow anything here?"  Or does He find rocks and stubble?

My desire is to be strong in the Lord. I know I must stay close to Him, if I am to be like a tree planted by streams of water, drawing my power from the constant flow.

 

Full Well

It’s not like I hide it, or anything.

 

I really do like to discover new and exciting things like obscure insects that come only to lights at night or the very most interior part of a tiny flower growing in the grass. Even though I am not the true "discoverer," if it’s new to me, it is my own personal discovery. Besides the ultra small creatures that I may photograph, I am drawn to other subjects as well. Ultimately, the reality of God being our creator is reinforced repeatedly as the camera lens exposes such masterful design.

My tendency toward capturing nature and admiring its beauty is well known where I work. Many times I am summoned to come see the latest "find." It might be an unusual insect on the sidewalk or a glass jar transporting a lizard. On occasion, I am told of spider webs glistening in the sun. Such was the case recently.

As one of the area directors brought me to a covered walkway, I was instructed to look up at a large, intricate web, abandoned by its maker.

Spider webs are such examples of God’s instruction. In the past, I have noticed a spider web decorated with specific designs in bolder white, interwoven into the main web. The designs in the web match the design on the back of the spider that created it. How is that possible? God fashioned the ability and the will to do so into that specific type of spider.

Although the web I was looking at was not that type, it was impressive, still. The Bible tells us in the book of Psalms, chapter 139, verses 14 and 15:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.

 My frame was not hidden from you
       when I was made in the secret place.
       When I was woven together in the depths of the earth…

 

I was woven together? I have watched a spider construct a web before. Back and forth, back and forth, up and down, connect here, attach there.  Dilligent. Purposeful. It knows exactly what it’s doing.  Imagine God putting YOU together. With all the power in the universe, He miraculously created the cells in your body and commanded them to do His bidding, forming every part of who you are and who you will become. Dilligent. Purposeful.

God’s works are wonderful and I know that full well.

 

 

 

Your Love and Your Truth

It came for me in the mail at work. The box was wrapped nicely for transport in clean, white paper. I opened the package with anticipation.

Gifts are like that. They have the wonderful reputation of creating excitement, delicious expectation and giddy smiles. Sometimes they bring tears of joy and happiness knitted together with a warm feeling of knowing that you are loved.

But is it the gift that brings this about, or is it the giver? It’s not just the new chrome plated_______.  It’s not just because of the most beautiful ________.  It’s that you know that someone cared.

My package revealed an elegant box with a deicate bow of ribbon attached. Inside the box was a ceramic angel.

Lately, I have been dealing with some unique challenges. A very kind friend decided to remind me that I truly am cared about and remembered—-she sent a box with much more than a ribbon. It was a testimony of God’s love to me, given through the unselfish gift of another.