A WORD for the Week | Archives 8
176. Beauty 101 by Karen Maio
My birthday is coming up. Age has never bothered me, but, lately, those lines around my eyes and mouth are starting to bug me a little. I’ve tried a couple creams that were supposed to make them disappear, but, huh! Guess what? They didn’t work! I suppose I could keep trying, since there are dozens of other creams promising the same thing, but I suspect I would get similar results. Cosmetics - make-up, creams, perfumes, beauty supply products - is a $10 billion industry. The world is obsessed with beauty!
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice - for your own self-esteem, for your husband, boyfriend, or prospective boyfriend, but a Christian woman will want to be careful. She’ll want to be a good steward of her money. A girl could go CRAZY in a place like Sephora and come out substantially poorer. She’ll want to keep sinful vanity and pride in check. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” (Philippians 2:3)
What else does God say about beauty? “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes [or expensive make up and wrinkle creams]. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:4)[emphasis added]
OK. We can still style our hair, wear our wedding bands, necklaces, affordable “in” clothes, and apply lip gloss. That’s not where this passage is going. The point here is that true beauty comes from the heart. But what exactly is a “gentle spirit”? It is a humble submission to the Lord and his will. It is meek - not weak or timid - but a kind and tender caring toward God and others...like Jesus. It is not angry, contentious, cruel, obnoxious, demanding or self-absorbed.
People will notice this kind of beauty and will want to know where you get it!
Face it. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting [does not last], but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
For my birthday, I’d like recommendations on effective, affordable face creams and prayers that the Spirit that lives within me would always make the fruit or gift of a gentle spirit abundant in me...and you as well!
177. When a Need is Really a Want by Christine Wentzel
Sinners are always wanting what they don't have….Proverbs 21:26a
I was so busy with my head stuck in the oven that I didn’t hear the wash machine banging around the floor downstairs. After the scrubbing task, I walked down the stairs to change the wash only to stop dead in my tracks at the signs of The Flood seeping out from under the laundry room door, grrr. While cleaning up the mess, I began chanting the I-want-it blues. Why can’t I have a new washer? Why can’t I have a new, self-cleaning oven too? And the beat went on…
Later, I huffed and puffed to my husband about the arduous clean up job, but he wouldn’t join my pity party. However, hope began to float. Visions began dancing in my head of a sparkling, brand new machine like the one Kelly Ripa glides around in those Electrolux commercials. As my fantasies grew larger, a voice rang out with triumph, “Honey, I fixed it!”
Pop! “Um, thanks dear, that’s just great...”
But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
Drifting back down to earth, I realized pure discontentment had seeped into my heart and flooded my peace. I remember the days when we couldn’t afford a washing machine. The weekly trips to the laundry mat were exhausting. When I finally did get that beautiful thing, I practically kissed it. It is still doing a good job today despite my rushing attempts to over load it.
Would it be God-pleasing to purchase new appliances anyway? It depends on my reasons and attitude. Do I take good care of the appliances I already have? Am I looking to feel better about myself by having the latest, newest model?
Our Father, who sees even the wild birds are fed, cares so deeply for each and every one of us that He makes sure we have exactly what we need to get through today, and normally throws in a whole lot more to boot. He gave us the ability to purchase those appliances at the perfect time we could afford it. Plus He blessed my husband with the capability and willingness to fix them. There will come a time when those wants will turn into real needs.
I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord. Without you, I don't have anything that is good." God's people who live in our land are glorious. I take great delight in them. Lord, everything you have given me is good. You have made my life secure. I am very pleased with what you have given me. I am very happy with what I've received from you…my heart is glad. Joy is on my tongue…Psalm 16:2-3, 5-6,9
178. Self-Worth by Karen Maio
A large part of all a woman does often goes unnoticed. It's no wonder our self-esteem can take a hit at times. There's usually not a standing ovation from your family for the casserole you served for supper. Typically, your classmates don't line up for high-fives after you hand in your English paper. Chances are you won't appear on the cover of that fashion magazine in the new sweater you knit. The church bulletin won't be announcing a 25th year anniversary celebration for the altar guild lady.
Perhaps you're part of the working world and get an annual job review, so that "pat on the back" gives you enough of a boost to lift you up. Otherwise, you'll have to settle for the subtle kudos: seeing the meal being wolfed down in under 5 minutes...the relief of being done with the assignment to the best of your ability and knowing your grade won't be lowered for lateness...a compliment from a stranger that the color looks really good on you...no phone calls, "You put up the wrong color altar cloth!"
Everybody likes accolades, but we must remember that's not why we are doing what we do; rather, we are serving the Lord by giving 100% of whatever we do to glorify him. True self esteem has very little to do with the ego-boosting gratification that comes with high praise, awards, promotions, bonuses, and new clothes. These are all temporary "uppers", but they aren't what builds a healthy self-image.
People need to feel loved and accepted, with a sense of belonging.
You are loved unconditionally by our God. You are his own dear child. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God(1 John 3:1)
People need to feel acceptable, with a sense of worthiness.
You are worth our precious Savior dying for and forgiving all your sins and shortcomings and removing all your guilt. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. ...I am the LORD, your God ... your Savior ... you are precious and honored in my sight ... I love you." (Isaiah 43:1,3,4)
People need to feel adequate, have a sense of competence.
You have been "created in God's image" (Genesis 1:27), but with your own unique personality and talents, chosen to fulfill a specific aspect of God's ministry. The Holy Spirit gives us a new life and empowers us to use the gifts he gives us to his glory. "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant..for the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)
It would be great if we'd hear it more often from husbands, boyfriends, friends, teachers, bosses, but deep down we know that the family loves and appreciates us, although it might not be on their minds or lips all the time...the teacher expects nothing less from you...the sweater gives you warmth and satisfaction...and your real reward will be in heaven!
179. Tug of War by Julie Luetke
Picture a game of Tug of War. The rope is long. It is lined with many people holding each side. The people are of all types. You are one of them.
When you have a very large team with strong members it is easier to pull the rope over to your side and win. When I am with a large group of strong Christians it is easy to be confident of the things God has done for me. I boldly say that Jesus is my savior. I am confident God’s Word is true. I am on the stronger team.
As the other team tugs on the rope, my team members and I need to hold on tighter. The other team represents sickness, doubts, guilt, temptations, bad habits, false teaching, and other things that pull me away from God. The other team, with great strength and crafty tactics, wants to drag me to hell.
Every one of my team members must work to be strong. As our bodies need good food to be strong, our faith needs the food of God’s Word. We attend church hearing God’s Word at every opportunity. Through the words of God our faith grows stronger. We gain in strength individually, thus strengthening the team.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Now think of your Tug of War battle. The opposing team pulls hard causing a few of your team member to stumble. One member stumbles with a divorce and another’s child is arrested on drug charges. Guilt and sadness cause weakness in their grip of the rope. The strength of your other team members holding on to and taking in the fullness of God’s Word help to pick up the stumbled members.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on…
As you feed the fallen one with God’s Word he or she gets stronger and grips tighter. Through struggles the team as a whole marvels at what God has done. The entire team gains in power and determination.
Ephesians 3:18-19 [You] May have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear bothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
180. This May Hurt A Little by Tracy Hankwitz
I love to prune. Working in the horticultural field, I've seen my share of overgrown shrubs and bad pruning techniques. For many homeowners, pruning is simply taking the loppers and shearing off the top few inches. In their eyes, this is a big improvement because now they can see out their front windows or they have reclaimed their sidewalks. However, their cuts may actually be hurting the plants, deforming and weakening them. Several times I have been hired to fix bad pruning jobs or those overgrown from neglect. And I love it! I take pleasure in making selective cuts- first removing dead branches (called health pruning), then the crossing branches, and finally - my favorite part - making cuts that will reveal the true beauty of the shrub and promote better flowering and fruiting.
A few days ago I found myself in the middle of an overgrown planting of badly pruned Viburnums. As I was deciding which branches could stay and which ones had to go, I realized how similar my life is to that of these shrubs. At times my ego gets overgrown and needs pruning. I rely on myself rather than fully depend on God to handle my day to day crisis. Or perhaps I pat myself on the back for accomplishments at work rather than thank Him for the gifts and abilities with which He has blessed me. The crossing branches in my life are my own selfish desires that cross God's will, a busy lifestyle that doesn't always make time to stay connected to His refreshing Word, and a daily struggle to balance priorities where He usually is left somewhere in the middle. I must look like a mess to His eye of perfection.
Thankfully because of Jesus' life of redemptive work, God is patient with me. As the Master Gardener, He lovingly prunes me, cutting away everything overgrown and ugly. He knows exactly which cuts to make to train me to turn back to Him, removing my dead sinful branches with complete forgiveness. When I stubbornly insist on crossing Him to do what I want, He makes cuts that guide me to grow in line with His will. Sometime His cuts hurt a little. Sometimes they hurt a lot. But His ultimate goal is to prune me to reveal a beautiful life that glorifies Him with an abundance of fruits of faith.
Jesus says in John 15: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. Remain in me and I will remain in you. Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. "
181. You are always on My mind by Christine Wentzel
The WORD speaks: "fixing our eyes on Jesus," and blesses us with a holy focus, "I keep my eyes always on the Lord."
Um, those quotes can make our ancient Eve a little squirmy. "Always" is all the time and that wouldn't accurately describe how often we look to Jesus. But to the issues, problems and circumstances of the past, present and future we give our undivided attention and more. We give them our "what ifs", our "what abouts" and our desire to control. What do we get in return but regret, disappointment and worry? That's a tired-old, energy-draining focus which leads to nowhere, always.
The WORD speaks, "Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" and blesses us with a holy example, "With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken."
The Messiah, the Christ, the victorious Sacrificial Lamb pioneered new life for all of mankind. Only through His redemptive work on our behalf can living with God be found. Only Jesus offers the gift of belief for free. By His mercy, we trust this; unshackled forever from the fixations of "Am I good enough?" and "What is the meaning to life?"
The WORD speaks, "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" and blesses us with a heavenly perspective: "Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay."
Only Jesus perfected the example of new living through faith with joy in all circumstances. He knew every ugly hardship unto death had sanctified meaning and a holy purpose-the victory for humanity to be right with God forever. So it is for us on this new, exciting journey. Every struggle serves a higher purpose to reveal and inspire, to help and grow. If we lose sight of this or get distracted by that, look at Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher and victor who suffered it first.
Are you bearing up under hardship to spare someone you love? Are their faces fixed on your mind when you want to give up? Do you smile in joy knowing your sacrifice will make life better for them? That's what the Pioneer of salvation did for us. That's what the Perfecter of faith works in us. He promises, "You are always on My mind."
"...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
"I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure," Psalm 16:8-9
182. Light my Fire! by Christine Wentzel
Forgive me Jesus for I find myself in a valley of spiritual weariness. Usually this happens because I lost sight of Easter. It doesn't matter what the calendar says, Easter is every day. It's the day I hear my risen Savior lovingly say, "Mary" and respond to Him as if He said, "Christine." Stand there with Mary and you'll hear your name too. Ah, the Refiner is stoking the fire... "Speak [Lord], for your servant is listening."
My compassionate Counselor points me to His ascension and the day He gifted His power, like tongues of fire, on the heads of His people. That lit a blaze no one will ever douse-not with any amount of loathing and mockery, banishment and shunning or torture and death. Spiritual weariness? Never. Those first witnesses to the living God ate and breathed spiritual endurance despite their fears, weariness, and the world's attempts to force its will on them.
They ravenously fed on the Bread of Life. They continually met together, hugged, cried, laughed, and sang worshipful songs with each other. The Holy Comforter gave them the strength to pray without ceasing, and give of whatever they had to encourage and sustain each other in their personal ministries. Today no amount of social media and digital technology can compare. We physically need each other to stay strong!
Just as Christ warned, the dying world still seethes with hatred for Him. Here are just a few of our Christian families making the headlines for their spiritual endurance:
Saeed Abedini, an American pastor imprisoned and beaten in Iran.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese wife and mother sentenced to 100 lashes and death.
Nigerian girls, kidnapped, abused, sold into slavery and forced to convert to Islam.
Statistics vary widely, but the numbers of Christian persecutions are astounding. According to the Pew Research Center (June 2013), they reported that 145 countries harass Christians. Lord in your mercy remember those who suffer because of Your name.
Time to shake the blues, I'm pretty fired up. So fired up that I'm willing to die for it? With a little help from my friends, I pray so. By the grace of my God who died first in my place? I promised so.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:12-13, 19
183. Christianity: Definitely NOT Negative! By A Broken Hearten Mother
You may have seen my other devotions on this topic. [Please lookup in the AW4W Archives for 109. So Many Waves by Broken Hearted Mother and 110. By a Broken-hearted Mother.] I wrote with many tears, about our son who had been arrested for internet child pornography. Later I wrote about the waves of sadness that come over our family and how focusing on Jesus calms us.
The past few days have been rocky again for my husband and me. The upcoming visit of our grandchildren for two weeks gives us great joy and anticipation, but the knowledge that they do not have Daddy now and will not for a long time is heartbreaking. Knowing that our son caused this himself and our daughter-in-law has such a heavy load makes us physically and emotionally sick.
My Jesus is very patient with me. As I lay awake last night, praying for my son's family, Jesus reminded me that I was not focusing on Him again. I could almost hear Him say, "Look at me." I stopped praying and thought about Jesus being with the grandchildren and guiding their mother's decisions and I fell immediately into peaceful sleep until morning. Jesus really is my Light in so many ways.
Amid the many problems our son's sin has caused, God does not want us to keep our focus on the negative things in our lives. I cannot ignore the facts but my focus needs to be on Christ. Some people, maybe you, think Christianity is too negative because we talk about sin, death and hell. We DO talk about sin, death and hell, but we also talk about forgiveness, eternal Life and heaven!
Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
* Whose Word is true but Jesus?
* Who is noble but Jesus?
* Who is right but Jesus?
* Who is pure but Jesus?
* Who is lovely but Jesus?
* Who is admirable but Jesus?
* Excellent and worthy of the praise of angels... Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!!
We are to think on such things and then the end of verse 9: "And the God of peace will be with you."
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Oh, my friends, the God of peace is with us. Dumping buckets of peace all over us. Just ask a Christian snuggling in the lap of God to explain how not-negative Christianity really is.
184. Call Me Martha by Carolyn Webb
When I was dating the man who would become my husband, my future mother-in-law would occasionally call me Martha. Being named Carolyn, I am used to people calling me Carol or Caroline, but “Martha” was unusual. There wasn’t any reason for her calling me Martha, she just liked the name, but when I heard the name I immediately thought of the story of Mary and Martha recorded in Luke 10: 38-42; As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I didn’t like being called Martha because she was scolded by Jesus. I always liked to think of myself as Mary. I would picture myself sitting at Jesus feet soaking up every Word. In reality, I am more like Martha. I worry and busy myself with many things: there is family to take care of, a house to maintain, meals to prepare, work to do, relationships to nurture, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes all these things do get in the way of my relationship with God, but being a Martha isn’t all bad. Notice in the story that Jesus did not rebuke Martha for doing all the work to take care of her guests. Martha on the other hand was mildly reprimanded by her Lord when she became upset with Mary and tried to take her sister away from listening to Jesus. The problem wasn’t that Martha was working and not listening at the time, but that she wanted Jesus to make Mary stop listening to Him and help her. Martha actually had a very strong faith which she displayed when her brother Lazarus died. At that time she professed, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (Luke 11:27)
I’m happy to be a Martha. In Luke 12:2 it is noted: “A dinner was given in Jesus honor. Martha served...” Martha’s role was to serve Jesus. What could be better than that? God has blessed me with the ability to get a lot of work done; I love serving other people and my Lord. I just need to remember to put “spend time with God” at the top of my To Do List. If you are a Martha too, serve the Lord with gladness; this is the work we are called to do.
185. Why Am I Here? by Karen Maio
Why am I here? People have been pondering this question, searching for the meaning of life for centuries. They look within to try to figure out their goals, their dreams, and what might make them happy. The problem with that, of course, is that they didn't create themselves, so there is no way they can tell what they were created for. God created us. His purpose for us is clearly defined in his Word:
To come to faith:
"God our Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1st Timothy 2:4)
To share our faith:
"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
To give glory to God:
"Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)
So, to review what we have to do to fulfill our purpose:
To come to faith:
Nothing! We - God's enemies by nature - can do nothing - no effort or decision on our part - to work saving faith in our hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
To share our faith:
This is where it gets a little harder. For some of us, we let our foolish fear of embarrassment or rejection keep us from sharing the lifesaving Gospel of Jesus Christ. For others, we just stay in our cozy little Christian circle of family and friends who already know Jesus. We need to venture out of our comfort zone into the rest of the world that needs us. (I love the title of a Christian book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You Need to Get Out of the Boat.) Start small; make a connection; develop a relationship; share the good news! "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline, so do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord." (2nd Timothy 1:7-8)
To give glory to God:
Obey his commands! Easier said than done, you say? True, but here, too, God promises the Holy Spirit's help in our life of sanctification. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) and "I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:27)
So, that's it; that's why we're here. And along the way, God in his infinite wisdom may choose to grant us accomplished earthly goals, fulfilled dreams, and happiness, because that's just the kind of kind and loving God he is!
Holy God, thank you for your Spirit who has worked saving faith in our hearts through the Gospel in the Word and sacraments. Give us courage to share that good news of salvation with others. Grant us the help of your holy Spirit to live sanctified lives out of love and thanks for all you have done for us through Jesus Christ, In his name we pray, Amen!
186. Beauty for Ashes by Karen Maio
Spring is only a day away! Yep, right around the corner... I don’t know about where you live, but here in the Midwest United States, we don’t hold our breath when the groundhog fails to see his shadow. Either way, there are six more weeks of winter… for us, at least! In fact, after this year’s record blizzard, I’m not sure if anybody even saw the groundhog!
Everything is just kind of brown, gray, and dingy...including my mood every now and then. I have no real reason to feel this way; indeed, I know that I am blessed with my family, friends, plenty of food, clothing and shelter. I am content, so what gives? I suppose we, as women, can blame it on hormones, but they get blamed for enough already. So, do I host a pity party? No, the Lord tells me I’m supposed to rejoice and not just when I feel like it, but all the time: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).
So, what do you do when you don’t feel like rejoicing? You get into the Word. God promises to help us in all things, and this is no exception.
Jesus speaks to us in Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim 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 joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
At first glance, this passage might be mistaken for God’s promise of rescue from physical and political captivity that the Old Testament nation endured. However, the “brokenhearted captives” are all of us sinners; the dark prison is hell. Jesus came, not only to proclaim the good news, but to win it and deliver it to us. He has done that by taking our sins, and dying the death we deserve on the cross.
In Old Testament times, the Year of Jubilee was celebrated every 50 years. When the Jubilee Year came, all debts were forgiven, all slaves were freed, and all inheritance land was returned to its original owner. The past was forgiven and forgotten, the slate was wiped clean, and everyone was given a new beginning. The “year of the Lord’s favor” is now, today. By grace you believe in Jesus as your Savior; by willful stubbornness and by rejecting God, you earn His vengeance. God comforts our mourning over our sins (our repentance, symbolized by ashes on the forehead) with the beautiful assurance of forgiveness. No more “ashes and sackcloth” for us, but, rather we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We no longer need to be afraid of death or hell; heaven is ours! He has given us beauty for ashes. How can our hearts not be joyful and full of praise?
187. Thanks and Pray - Pray and Thanks by Lori Malnes
This past week I've been a little under the weather - nothing bad, just a cold - and my motivation to get anything done has been non-existent. In my state of bleh and no-mo, I was thinking about what I had read recently about prayer and thanksgiving and how the two are intermixed.
So I procrastinated by going to biblegateway.com and checking out how many times pray/prayer and thanks/thanksgiving were found coupled in the same sentence in the Bible. Depending on the translation, there are up to 20 such verses! And this does not even count the times that Jesus gave thanks before feeding the 5000 (Matt 14:19, Mark 6:41, Luke 9:16, John 6:11) or the 4000 (Matt 15.36, Mark 8:6). These pray and thanks verses are sprinkled from the Old Testament and into the New Testament.
One cool place in the Old Testament is in Daniel. After he found out the decree to pray only to King Darius, "three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving things to his God, just as he had done before." (Dan 6:10) Three times a day, every day, Daniel prayed and gave thanks to God - prayer and thanks together - no matter what.
Then in Philippians 4:6, Paul tells us, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." With thanksgiving - in every situation, we are to come before God in prayer and with thanksgiving.
This year, I have challenged myself to write at least 3 new things I am thankful for each day. I have done something similar in the past, but have not kept a written journal, so to speak, of these daily recording of gifts from God. As I am now rounding #100 for this year, it is cool to look back at this past month's big and little gifts from God - some I've dated and some are more general - but all are gifts from God.
Here's a sampling:
#11 Piles of shoes in the laundry room - means the kids are home!
#14 a lingering hugs from my son.
#60 apple-cinnamon French toast.
I think I go about my days far too often without even seeing or appreciating the little things, all the little blessings that God gives me each and every day. If I don't notice the little things, I might miss the big things as well. So, I'm going to keep writing down my thanks each day - and I am looking forward to watching that list grow and reviewing past thanksgivings.
"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." Colossians 4:2
Dear Jehovah Jireh - Your name means "the LORD will Provide" - and provide You most certainly do! Thank You for providing so many blessings each and every day! No matter what is going on in my life, You continue to just shower me with blessings! Thank You!! Forgive me when I focus is on the negative and do not see the blessings all around me. Remind me that You have a habit of making beauty from ashes - I only need to trust in You - You are amazing! LORD, give me a grateful heart -one that spills over to others. May I share my gratefulness for all You have done. Fill me with Your life - Thank You!!
188. Global Positioning System (GPS) by Christine Wentzel
One day I had a lunch date with a friend who lives about 45 minutes away in an area completely unfamiliar to me. After an hour I was hopelessly lost. I couldn't make heads or tails of my hastily scribbled note of directions. Instead of calling my friend, I was determined to figure it out on my own. After nearly 2 hours, I caved and with vision blurred by tears I finally called my friend. She immediately dropped everything to come to my rescue. She showed an amazing amount of grace by not making me feel more the fool that I already did when I realized I was only 5 minutes away from her.
As I tailgated her car I was thinking that it would be great to have a GPS voice calmly telling me at every wrong turn, "Recalculating..." then listen to the directions and follow them. And that's when it hit me. I do have a GPS-in fact, we all do. It's called God's Positioning System, the work of Jesus' Holy Spirit through the means of grace. It's what living a sanctified life is all about. In that process the Spirit is constantly recalculating our positions every time we get off track. His calming voice leads us back to the heaven-bound road. We only need to listen and follow.
In this reflection, I realized I was poorly prepared for the task. I never asked the Lord to bless my plans. I didn't learn enough about the route. I didn't ask for help at the first sign of trouble. The tools (blessings!) to correct those things-prayer, preparation and asking for assistance-were at my fingertips from the start.
Nevertheless, God's Positioning System was at work recalculating my route. He already prepared my friend's heart to lovingly respond to my need, and He prepared my heart to learn a valuable lesson in spiritual and personal growth.
Here's a shout out for the amazing grace of GPS at work right now for us all!
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
189. SHOCKS THE CONSCIENCE by Christine Wentzel
The sins of man's inhumanities to man shocks the conscience of most people. The horror of child abuse, child pornography and child slavery are just the tip of the iceberg that make up the cruelties of mankind.
If we talk about the sins of people having sex outside of marriage, same-sex marriages, mass killings of our children through abortion then the number of shocked consciences goes down quite a bit.
If we list the sins of pet evils like "white" lies, over-eating, living above our means, coveting other's spouses, gossiping, neglecting our health, neglecting our prayer and worship, etc. then the number of shocked consciences are nearly zero.
I AM, the giver of the law, the writer of the ten commandments assures us that the shock to His conscience happens over every sin of every broken commandment. He declares He "hates all who do iniquity" (Psalm 5:5) It's very hard for people even believers to wrap their brains around how serious this is. God's law is black and white. We live in a culture of relativity where there absolutely are no absolutes! You can tell how much it is rubbing off on us by how much sin shocks our conscience.
Pray: Dear Father in Heaven, we kneel before you in grief over the way we have softened our consciences on sin. Forgive us for the way we weigh each one from not-so-bad to the very bad. They are all worthy of the sentence of death. We fall on the grace you have given us through the life, death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. By His wounds we are healed. By His resurrection we have eternal life. Increase the shock to our consciousness over all sin for Your name's sake, for our life's sake and for the sake of those influenced by our actions. In Your Holy Spirit's name we pray, amen.
"Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" Romans 5:9
190. Growing up to be Dependent by Lori Malnes
On Sunday we celebrated our younger son's 19th birthday - all the kids were here for the day - my kids are getting old!! It is so very neat to see your kids growing up to be such awesome young adults, and getting a glimpse of God's plans and purposes for them. But for me, the joy is also mixed with some heartache. The heartache comes in when I realize how independent they have become and how little I am now needed. However, I would not have it any other way! (Plus I have a wonderful husband who loves me and hugs me and tells me he will never grow out of needing me!) Ever since our children are little, we teach them to feed themselves, go potty by themselves, dress themselves, tie their own shoes, make good decisions by themselves, get educated, etc. Now that they have become those independent young adults, even though it is hard and painful to let go, I am so very proud and thankful for them!
Isn't it interesting how maturing in our faith is just the opposite! When we feel ourselves independent of God and going our own way, we display spiritual immaturity. However, when we realize how utterly and totally dependent we are on God - when we live our lives utterly and totally dependent on God - we display a more mature faith. Everything we do to grow in our faith is done to make us more and more dependent on God - daily Bible reading, praying continuously, exercising our faith, etc.. I wonder if God is as proud of us when we become more and more dependent on Him as we parents are when our children become more and more independent - in both cases, following His leading and guiding. Personally, I think I'm in that spiritual teenager stage with my spiritual frontal lobe not quite fully developed and having a tendency to rebel and go my own way! I am so very thankful God has the ultimate patience with me and helps me ride the waves of spiritual teenage-hood.
"We will no longer be babies in the faith. We won't be like ships tossed around by the waves. We won't be blown here and there by every new teaching. We won't be blown around by the cleverness and tricks of people who try to hide their evil plans. Instead, we will speak the truth in love. We will grow up into Christ in every way." Ephesians 4:14-15
Dear God, my Father: Thank You for your love and patience as I try to grow up in my faith, as I try to be more and more dependent on You. You change and work on people from the inside out and I need you to work on my rebellious independent spirit. Have Your way within me to break that spirit and make me tame and usable by You for Your purposes and Your ways. Help me grow in faith to be more and more like Jesus who lives in me. Amen
191. "DO NOT FEAR" by Julie Luetke & Christine Wentzel
Ever heard of the phrase if it bleeds it reads? It's a newspaper term for the scale publishers use to prioritize their stories. They sensationalize the headlines that take top billing. These exaggerated attention grabbers are easy weapons the devil employs to prey on our common fears. Hit a fear's sweet spot and bam! our eyes are off of Jesus.
Why does fear grab us so? Facing our mortality, our short-comings, our lack
of control, all bring out fear in most of us. When Jesus' disciples were in the boat and the wind was churning the waters, Jesus comes walking in on the water. The disciples were terrified! They thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus said, "It is I, do not be afraid." Jesus words took the disciples focus off of the fear and back onto Jesus.
On a chilly night outside of Bethlehem an angel appeared to shepherds. The first thing the angel said was, "Do not be afraid." The angel had good news of the birth of the baby Jesus. The fear had to be under control so the shepherds could focus on the birth announcement.
Fear is paralyzing. We can't think straight to make safe and wise decisions in an emergency if we let fear overtake us. Fear is a most effective weapon in Satan's arsenal. We are reminded:
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7
How can we keep from being afraid? As hard as we might like to be brave, fear comes over us like a dark shadow. It's hard to stop ourselves when darkness fills the night and strange sounds echo through the house. We're afraid when a health problem is not solved and we see our loved ones getting sicker and sicker. We may be in danger of losing our jobs. We are afraid we will have no money to live on. Many things bring real fear into our hearts. When afraid we are not focusing on Jesus for as soon as we do, our fear subsides.
God knows how powerful a tool fear is in the wrong hands so He reminds us often to not fear.
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15
One last verse to help us fight the fear:
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
May God bless you with His peace.
192. Post-Valentine's Day by Karen Maio
The flowers have wilted, the cards are tossed, the blind date turned out to be a bust, and the chocolates have gone to the hips....another dissatisfying post-commercial holiday blues moment...or is it?
One love letter remains...
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16.
Here is a love that is unconditional, freely given with "no strings attached".
It is more than mere affection. It is like that special fierce bond that a parent feels with her child, so overwhelmingly great that you think your heart will explode, but even more so because the holy, almighty God is calling us his own. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God." 1 John 3:1
It is an all-encompassing love, meeting all our needs, including our most pressing one - our need for a Savior from sin. It is selfless to the extreme of being sacrificial. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." 1 John 3:16
It is a forever love that won't fade away or disappoint us. "Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
Cherish this love letter; don't let it slip away like the holiday. Let us bask in this love over the next several weeks as we take time to ponder the passion of Christ- his intense suffering and death on the cross....all for me! Truly, it is a most satisfying wonderful love!
193. What Did They Say? by Lynnette Hupman
During January I suffered some temporary (I hope) hearing loss due to an inner ear infection. Currently it feels as if I am underwater and trying to understand what people are saying. On Sunday, I heard Pastor ask one of the children a question during children's time, but missed the response which caused many in the congregation to laugh. It made me feel a little left out, a little lonely. You see I'm already tired of asking, "What did they say?"
In the Bible, God tells about healing people who are lame, blind, and troubled. He tells us to be patient and endure our afflictions. He reminds us that he has a plan that we don't know about. So, we don't have to ask him "What did you say?" We just have to trust that he knows what is best for us and wait on him to answer our prayers. Sometimes we get an answer that agrees with our wishes and sometimes we don't.
If you're struggling with an issue in your life, whether it be physical or mental, emotional or spiritual, go to the Bible and seek solace there. Talk to your pastor or a strong Christian friend and ask for direction and encouragement. We should never feel alone with our problems and while we may get discouraged, we know what He says. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33
194. Remembering our Baptisms by Karen Maio
Well, we're almost to the end of January already. How is everybody doing with those New Year's resolutions? Were you shocked to see the scale read up a pound at the weekly weigh-in? Did you even make it a week before sliding back into those bad habits? Were you half asleep when you remembered that you forgot to do your daily Bible reading...again?
Liturgically, January is known for the season of Epiphany, a Greek word meaning "appearance", referring to the appearance of Christ as our Savior, as well as the appearance of the Magi, or wise men, the Gentiles who came to acknowledge and worship this 'God of Israel'. It is also a time when we focus on the baptism of our Lord. Jesus is identified as the Lamb of God, the beloved Son of God, and is anointed by the Spirit. He needed no baptism for the forgiveness of sins; the sinless Son of God was simply following his father's will, to "fulfill all righteousness".
This is the perfect opportunity for us to focus on our own baptisms. If you were baptized as an infant, this sacrament worked faith in your little heart, making you a child of God. Whether baptized as an infant or as an adult, it offered to you the forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the devil, and salvation to all who believe. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16) What a gift!
While most of us cannot remember our actual baptism, we Christians should daily "remember" our baptism! We should get up every morning and drown our "old Adam”, our sinful nature, in repentance, and let the "new man" arise, that is our sanctified self with a new heart and spirit that wants to live for Jesus Christ. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
Remembering our baptisms in this way may just help with those New Year's resolutions. Think about it...drown that "old woman" who sinfully wants to overeat, not exercise and take care of the body God gave her, smoke, drink to excess, nag, yell, judge, forget to feed her soul on a regular basis, etc. and let that "new woman" arise! She/you can't do it alone, but the Holy Spirit is happy to help! Pray to him for his help and strength. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ( 2nd Corinthians 3:18) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 25)
With His help, you can not only resolve to change, but vastly improve your chance of successfully keeping your resolutions!
195. As Long as I Was on My Knees by Sandra Grussing
A sister in Christ that I know once posted the following on her Facebook page:
"So I get to work at 7:30 this morning and it's raining and windy, just a 'yuck' morning. I get out of my car, umbrella up and purse goes upside down all over the parking lot and stuff under the car....so there I am on my knees fishing items from under the car and dumping them back into my purse...all the time trying to hold on to the umbrella in the wind. I thought as long as I'm on my knees I would talk to the Lord so I asked him to make the rest of my day better....So far so good; thank you Jesus."
The story from a slightly different perspective might read:
"So this believer gets to work this morning and Satan says, 'Yep, It's a yuck morning, let's see if we can't do something to get Little Miss Happy-and-Contented-in-The-Lord to crack!' So he scatters the contents of her purse (which by the way is a considerable amount of content) all over the place including under her car. 'THAT will bring her to her knees,' Satan says. 'Just one little curse word is all I ask. Or even just a whine or complaint... A little crack I can squeeze through into her soul.' He was right...it did bring her to her knees...where she had a little chat with Jesus. Satan loses...AGAIN!"
Well, here we are - another new year - 2013! Most likely it will bring each of us to our knees with more serious problems than a spilled purse on a rainy day. Anyone else feeling a bit apprehensive? Economy got you scared? Are you unemployed or afraid you might get laid off? Is the market value of your house less than what you owe the mortgage company?
Maybe it's the world situation that makes you nervous. One country is shooting rockets across the border at another and another country is testing nuclear weapons. In our own country, there are violent shootings in our own schools and places of business. Sure, fear seems like the natural reaction, doesn't it? But Paul is inspired to write otherwise.
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." - Ephesians 6:18
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and understanding petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7
Yes, every single thing Satan and this world throw at us during the upcoming year will be more than enough to bring us to our knees. As long as we are down there, we should have a talk with the only one powerful enough to solve the problem - the only one gracious and merciful enough to make it right - the only one you can trust completely.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all you ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6
196. Santa Claus by Karen Maio
The real Santa Claus was Saint Nicholas, a fourth century Bishop in Turkey. Famous for acts of kindness, especially towards children, he eventually became popular in Holland, where he was known as "Sinter Klaas". Around 1870, Americans turned the name into Santa Claus.
For those of you with small children, grandchildren, or perhaps a nephew or niece, the time may come when you decide to go visit Santa Claus. Fortunately for you, he's available at every mall in the area! A word to the wise: plan ahead! If you want a smiling child for that photographic moment, make sure it is not nap time when you visit. Bring along a mess-free snack to enjoy while waiting in line. Bring along an extra shirt or outfit in case baby decides to, well, not be mess-free. If you have a toy that brings a sure-fire smile to your child's face - bring it! He/she may decide to freak out when handed over to the fat, bearded, red stranger. Enjoy! Merry Christmas!
Ah, yes, Santa Claus - to "believe" or not to believe has been debated for years and will be for many more. Some people are strictly against this secular icon, others are all for it. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with having a little Santa fun if done in moderation, well-balanced with celebrating the birth of the Christ child. After all, that (Jesus) is what the holiday is all about! My son enjoyed opening presents and running to his stocking on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought him, just like thousands of other children do each year. He shows no need for therapy for the years of "deceit". However, he was also in a Christian Christmas program at school each year, memorizing many Bible passages and hymn verses. He would be at all of the Advent and Christmas worship services with me. We would read religious-based devotions and books in addition to the secular stories about reindeer and snowmen. When he was small, we'd even bake a special red velvet birthday cake for Jesus.It's all about where you want to place your true focus. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Matthew 6:21
Santa will eventually be outgrown, but Jesus is forever!
Dear God, forgive me if I have emphasized Santa more than Jesus at Christmastime. Use me to instill in my child (grandchild/nephew/niece) a knowledge of Jesus and all that he was born to do for us. Strengthen the faith of my child - and myself - as we spend time in the Word. Bless us as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus's birthday. In his name we pray, Amen.
197. What Are You Afraid Of? by Julie Luetke
Afraid you aren't good enough? Afraid of test results? Afraid of bad news? Afraid your relationship is falling apart? Afraid of what's happening in our economy? Afraid you'll get sick? Afraid you are failing as a mother? Afraid of death?
We all have fears. Our fears change as the situations in our lives change. No matter what brings us fear, God has sweet words of comfort.
"Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1b-3a
No matter your current fear, our Heavenly Father tells us to "Fear not, for I have redeemed you." God doesn't say we won't have fearful things happen to us, but when they do, God assures us:
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13
As a small child is able to walk into a scary doctor's office as long as Daddy's hand is holding his, we can face every fearful situation because our Heavenly Father has taken us by the hand and gently whispers, "Do not fear, I will help you."
198. Election Day by Karen Maio
It's election time again in the United States. Fellow Americans, are you getting sick of all of the election-related phone calls and the mud-slinging commercials? Is your head reeling with all of the rhetoric? Have you thrown in your 19th-amendment-to-the-United-States-Constitution towel and asked yourself, "Why should I even bother to vote?"
The weeks (and months) leading up to an election in any country can be confusing, frustrating, exhausting, but, I urge you to hang in there just a little longer, and get out there and vote. American women fought long and hard to get this precious right; don't let them down.
We, as Christian individuals whom God has called to be the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13), will want to try to place into leadership (or run for office ourselves) representatives who will promote Christian values and help preserve our country! We, as individuals and as the Church, can and should pray for our leaders, both current and prospective. "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1Timothy 2:1-2
Ultimately, God is in control, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything to perhaps further his will.
My name is Karen Maio and I approve this message.
199. Weary from Worry by Janet Gehlhar
I'm feeling weighed down by the problems and sadness all around me. I'm weary from worry! I know I shouldn't worry, I don't need to worry, I ought to trust God, I must stop . . . and that makes me feel worse. All of those shoulds, needs, oughts, and musts turn everything back on me. The emphasis is all wrong because I'm focusing on myself instead of looking to God. Why am I trying to do God's work? No wonder I'm weary!
Peace . . . I want peace . . . true peace that calms me inside.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God has already provided that true peace for me.
Psalm 62:8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Does this mean I can scream, vent, cry and basically empty my heart of worries into God's hands? Absolutely! And, I can leave all those worries in God's hands because He is handling them. I remember that God is all-knowing, almighty, and working everything for my eternal good.
It isn't up to me - God is handling things. Wow - my weariness has been replaced with peace.
200. Actively Waiting by Christine Wentzel
We are waiting on something all the time. From waiting on school tests to getting that final degree, from waiting on deployment orders to getting loved ones home, and from waiting in a doctor's office to getting lab results. The waiting never ends. Time slowly ticks ahead in the wait. Our Lord insists waiting serves a vital Purpose, but oh can't you just hear the labored tick-tock at times?
Our patient Promise Keeper gives us examples of our sisters who tried to speed up the process of waiting on Him ...
Sarah was a 65-year old, barren woman when the God of her husband, Abraham, promised to make their children into a "great nation" (Genesis 12:2) She waited approximately 219,000 ticking hours. In the wait, filled with fear and discouragement, she told her husband to sleep with her fertile servant. The result was infidelity, jealousy, abuse, and abandonment.
The LORD's rebuke: When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? Isaiah 50:2a
Like her great-aunt Sarah, Rebekah was B.B.B. approved (beautiful, barren, and blessed). Rebekah's 175,200 ticking hour-awaited pregnancy was physically turbulent. She inquired of the LORD and He answered with divine prophecy (Genesis 25). Her life glowed with Godly trust and waiting, and yet in another wait she told her son to steal from his brother and deceive his father in an attempt to control his future. The result was that Rebekah never saw her beloved son Jacob again.
The LORD's rebuke: Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Isaiah 59:1
Dear sisters, what is it you are waiting on and how is it going? Do not fret, God is right there with you so wait like our Creator of Time waits for us. Really? Just read Psalm 23. In His waiting, He is working to bring back the lost, sustaining the found and fighting off the evil that surrounds us all. The Gift Giver of patience is actively waiting. Likewise, you too stay active in waiting by helping our Shepherd through praying, worshiping, studying, fellowshipping, volunteering and yes, resting. Be the mirror that reflects Who you are ultimately waiting on!
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity [including waiting] under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1