A WORD for the Week | Archives 6
126. Fans in Heaven by Julie Luetke
Fall seems to be the time of ball games. Whether you are cheering for Monday Night Football, a Friday night high school game, or the World Series, you know what cheering is all about.
Have you ever lost your voice because you cheered so loudly? Have your hands stung from clapping? Have you been so excited about the game that you didn't notice the snow in the air and the biting wind? You probably remember it with a smile. The team never asked you to cheer yourself silly. You wanted to; you couldn't help it!
During a recent Bible study, we took a look at the praising of God that we will experience in heaven. The Bible doesn't tell us as much as we want to know about heaven but we do know we will praise God.
Revelation 19:6-7 quotes the saints in heaven shouting, "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!"
Is that all we will do? I don't know; it sounds kind of boring. That can't be right. Heaven couldn't possibly be boring. Were you bored when your team was so amazing you couldn't sit down and be quiet? In heaven we will see the ultimate MVP. The victory Jesus won is so awesome we will never tire of the replay. It will always bring out the fan in us....the shouting, the clapping, the tears of overwhelming joy.
Being a fan is not boring when your team wins. It's especially exciting when the fight to win takes real skill and determination. The harder it is to win, the louder we cheer. Satan was no pushover. The temptations of the devil were real. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:15, "We have one (Jesus) who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-but was without sin."
We like to think of our team as winning for us. Jesus really did win for us. By willingly going to the cross in our place and rising from the dead, Jesus won! It was a clear solid win over sin and death. No playoff needed. It is finished.
Revelation 6:13 "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!"
As you cheer for your team this fall, think of the joy of cheering for the ultimate MVP in heaven.
PS: MVP stands for My Victorious Prince of Peace.
3. Going through airport security, I often wonder why we...
2. Dear Lord, I lay myself and my flaws at your feet today and...
127. Whose Stuff is it Anyway? by Diana Kerr
Depending on the source, research tells us that 50-70% of Americans die without a will, meaning the government gets to decide how to divide up their leftover assets. Funny, huh? People value money and possessions so highly until they've passed away and can no longer personally use them. Unfortunately, if at least half of folks are dying intestate that means there's an awful lot of Christians passing up an amazing chance to give back to the LORD through an estate plan.
The Bible has a lot to say about wealth and material blessings, and it's clear who they belong to. Psalm 24:1 leaves no room for doubt-- The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. Everything that's ours, tangible and intangible, really does all belong to our Creator, and rightfully so. Therefore, we are not owners of our "stuff," but rather stewards. When we examine our hearts and refocus our mindset so that we view ourselves as stewards, it's easy to see the responsibility and opportunity that lies in putting together a will.
A Christian woman I admire confided in me how excited she feels when she thinks about being in heaven someday while still being able to share the gospel here on earth. How can she do that? She has thoughtfully planned out a will to make sure her church and her favorite outreach ministry receive a percentage of her assets when she dies. What a blessing she will be to God's kingdom on earth even after he calls her home to his heavenly kingdom!
With these thoughts in mind, how can we take action?
1) Let us pray that God transforms our hearts and minds so we truly embody what it means to be a steward of his gifts, now and in the future.
2) If you do not yet have a will, make it a goal to obtain the legal advice necessary to create one.
3) If you're already set with a will, consider updating it to reflect the opportunities you have as a Christian to give a gift when you are called home someday that will probably turn out to be your most generous gift ever!
49. I have a couple of ducks sitting on top of my copy of The...
128. Thank You is not Enough by Julie Luetke
This week I sat on the porch swing with my mother and we couldn't stop commenting on how thankful we were for the beautiful fall weather. The clear sky and comfortable 74 degrees made the day feel perfect. Then, my mother read a headline from the magazine in her lap. It read: "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'Thank You', that would suffice." At first it sounded nice, but we knew right away it wasn't accurate.
Thanking God is certainly important, but why stop there when we are invited by God to do much more?
Call upon me in the day of trouble....
Deliver us from evil...
Father, forgive me...
Keep me as the apple of your eye...
Help me to trust, to understand, to love...
There is just no end to the things we are encouraged by God to pray about. Below is a link to a song that is also a prayer. I hope you enjoy it. Oh, and don't forget to give thanks.
1. An Attitude of Gratitude
3. Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
44. One Approachable Guy!
116. My Cactus Pricked My Heart
187. Thanks and Pray - Pray and Thanks
45. I have a thankful heart...
7. Dear God of Justice and Mercy, I want to thank...
129. I Want to Listen to Jesus' Voice by Janet Gehlhar
I wonder what it would be like to be Moses and have God speak to me and tell me exactly what to do . . . well, except I wouldn't want to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people go, and I wouldn't want to step into the Red Sea, and really, I wouldn't want to...sigh. Yeah, I guess that wouldn't be so easy, after all. Moses didn't feel qualified to do what God asked of him, either. And yet, isn't that the great part of it all? Knowing that I can't do it, but that God's plan will be carried out with His strength - not mine - and God will be glorified. My job is to follow God's direction and allow God's plan to unfold.
John 10:27 - "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
I tend to let my mind fill up with so many plans and ideas that it is a swirling mess of confusion. Then I wonder why I can't hear Jesus' voice. Sometimes I wish that God had a special voice that blasted in my head...but God doesn't work like that. He gives me His Word to follow and has blessed me with Christian friends who advise me. At times I may feel a nudge from God, but I have to be really listening so I don't miss it. It's time to readjust priorities - again. Instead of spending so much time and energy trying to figure out what I think I should do, I want to focus on being still and putting my energy into listening to God's Word and seeking His direction.
115. God gave me this talent to create...
130. Now I "Get It" by Janet Gehlhar
I like to imagine what it would have been like to be one of Jesus' disciples. Imagine being with Jesus for 3 years and hearing him preach, observing him heal, witnessing his miracles, and having Him as a personal instructor. And yet, through all of that, the disciples didn't fully "get it" and when Jesus was arrested and crucified, they were hiding in fear. Seeing the empty grave wasn't an "ah ha" experience either. Maybe a glimmer of understanding was beginning? It wasn't until Jesus came to speak to them after his resurrection - and more than once - that they finally "got it" and saw the whole plan of salvation had been completed. From my 20/20 hindsight view, I could scoff at their denseness, but in reality, I know I'd have done the same. I do the same now. How often do I wonder why something bad has happened or fail to trust God's promise that He is working everything to my eternal good? I scoff at my own denseness!
Isaiah 12:2 - Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."
I'm looking forward to heaven when my sinful nature will be gone and I will completely "get it" and will have no more questions, doubts, or fears. In the meantime, I'm praying for God's strength to trust His promises and follow Him because He will lead me in the way I should go.
36. The Rescue—Encounter 2 of 3
195. As Long as I Was on My Knees
113. I woke up this morning to hear the terrible news that...
131. We have some misconceptions in the church about...
143. Is it Christian? We’ve been going through a series...
131. Speed Bumps by Christine Wentzel
Ugh, speed bumps...they're everywhere. It was bad enough when they put them in parking lots, but now they are on the narrow streets in my neighborhood where the lawful speed limit has gone from 20 mph to 15 mph. At this rate I'll be able to walk faster than I can legally drive.
So why are they there? Well probably because the human mind is always wired to rebel. It wants to break laws and go at its own speed regardless of how harmful it is for them and the other travelers on the road. These under-carriage scrapers serve a purpose.
Know who else uses speed bumps? Our heavenly Father does. He is not bound by time and space so He sees things we can't. Because He is also boundless in His loving care for us He will use a speed bump to get our attention and slow down us down. It's our time of grace to go His Son, Jesus of Nazareth-who traveled these roads before us-who knew of them before they were made, and learn from Him why the bump is there.
He says, Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Proverbs 4:25-26
So carefully think!
Were you going so fast that you missed the Counselor's signs of heavenly Direction?
Was the speed bump for yourself or ultimately someone else?
Was anyone following you?
Were they keeping up or lagging farther behind?
Did those ahead of you stop to offer help?
He says, "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:13
While some of Life's speed bumps are either there for our own good or even of our own making as the consequence of sin, we are not alone. There are drivers behind us, before us and beside us who have the same issue with speed bumps. When we hit a bump there's a cause and effect on all of us. Because of this we can share our experiences, warn of the dangers, encourage the weary and be inspired by the long-distance travelers up ahead.
His counsel continues...strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," Acts 14:22
Hang on! Here comes another speed bump...
93. Just where the road I was trying to enter opens up to two lanes there was...
51. Every day I'm faced with a number of choices and decisions...
132. Self-Control by Cathy Wilk
Self-control. The word makes me fidget. I know that I lack it; it makes me very uncomfortable to think about my lack of self-control. I have evil thoughts of jealousy, covetousness, gluttony, and worry. What's worse is that when I look in the mirror, my sin is very evident. You see, I'm obese. Yes, I'm not afraid to say that word "obese". It makes others uncomfortable to hear me say it about myself; they try to say that I'm not overweight, but we both know that I am. The mirror and the scale don't lie.
I can wear clothing that makes me look slimmer. The cuts and colors of the clothing I wear, can somewhat camouflage the fact that I really, really need to lose weight. Before I got fat, I use to wonder how others could let themselves get fat. I even had cruel thoughts of thinking that they should have to pay for their own health insurance when all those pounds started to wreak havoc on their good health. Now, I'm that person!
I can say that I don't know how I got so fat. You see I have always exercised. I can't say I just woke up one morning and was fat. It took years to slowly put on this much weight. I could blame the poor health and surgeries that I've battled in the last decade, but that wouldn't really be honest. I know slender people that have endured the same challenges and more.
When I take stock, (and I try not to look in the full mirror often), I have to admit that it was my sin of loving food more than the "temple" God gave me. I have to own up to eating for comfort instead of talking to God for comfort; I have to own up to eating much more than my body needs to function. What's your area that lacks self-control? Does your anger manifest in foul language, bad moods, and hurtful comments to others? Do you need to calm down with a cigarette, drink, or drugs? When you are feeling bad about your day, do you try to drag up "some dirt" on others so that you feel better about yourself? If you have had a disagreement with a spouse, friend, or co-worker, do you think of all of their weaknesses to try to bolster your own inadequacies? Stop.
Tell the devil, the world, and your sinful self to get out of the way. Make a "beeline" to God in prayer. Check out the verse that lists the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Even though it's mentioned last, doesn't mean self-control isn't important. Instead of saying those hurtful words, picking up a cookie, or having evil thoughts, ask God to help you to find the joy and self-control that only the Holy Spirit can bring. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, we can take captive our lack of self-control. "And we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ".
78. Dear Kelly, we have an awesome God as I know you know. We have...
39. Lord, every time I’m sick or things don't go as planned...
133. A Father's Love by Karen Spiegelberg
This Sunday, we will all in some way recognize Fathers' Day. For me, it will be bittersweet as our precious Lord took my dad's hand and led him home to heaven just a year ago this week. Whether you have or had a great dad in your life, or have someone who has fit that role, there is something special about that male love and support for us, as girls and women. A great dad will love you unconditionally through your childhood tantrums, your first car accident, and your bad choices of boyfriends. He will show patience as you grow into the adult God will have you be, and will be there whenever you need him. How great is the love of a father!
1 John 3:1 tells us, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"
Imagine, through that passage, that our heavenly Father and his love are even more precious than an earthly father! He forgives the tantrums, and accidents, and poor choices in life and uses them for our good and to his glory. He is not only there whenever we need him, but he has done the ultimate that any father could do-sacrificed his own son for the sins and sake of us, his other children, that we might have eternal life and live at "home" with him and in his presence and glory forever.
My own dad now enjoys that reward. He is at home with his Father and my Father. That is something beautiful to imagine for my dad and to look forward to for myself, because he and I are both children of God who have been lavished upon with the love of the greatest Father! Oh, I thought this would be a bittersweet Father's Day, but now that I think more about it, it will be very sweet, very sweet indeed.
11. Cancer. The dreaded "C" word.
16. Wrapped in the Love of the Comforter with Su Hanson.
74. Don’t Forget the Second Half
95. What a Friend We have in Jesus!
11. I look out my window and see the after effects of the inversion...
30. My 16 year old son and I do CrossFit at the same...
88. Look, bad things are going to happen...
134. Parenting - God's Way Part 1 of 2 by Leigh
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6
This is a pretty profound and powerful promise; one I have firmly relied on for most of my forty-something years as a parent. Today, as a baby-boomer mother of two adults, and a Grammy Nana to their three young daughters, I've learned just how rewarding it can be to follow God's Parental Plan.
It was tough enough parenting my young children in the Nineteen-Seventies; but I am extremely concerned about how we are raising the youth of our Twenty-First Century Village. Is it just me or have you noticed that some modern-day relationships are technologically over the top, out there, and in your face narcissistic? Inconsiderate, inconsistent and irresponsible behavior within family paradigms is eroding the values and ideals I operated under when raising my youngsters.
I vividly remember our family dynamic when our kids were adolescents; we were very close-knit, spending all our time together. Doing everything together and sharing everything: dinners, entertainment, vacations and especially the hour-long drive - one way - to church every Sunday. With my captive audience, I turned those trips into unique parenting opportunities. Like a preening momma monkey, I picked the gnarly, pesky ticks of temptation from the fur of my kids' molting brains.
When they became teenagers, parenting grew more challenging. Getting their attention, much less instilling a savory sense of God's seasoned Word, neared the impossible. So, I tried a more subversive approach. Before their initial solo flight with friends, I asked to speak with them, outside earshot of acquaintances, to review Heaven's ground rules for "fun." The one-sided conversation went like this: "You're going out there alone for the first time. I want you to remember two things: One, you're a "Last Name;" and two, you're a Christian. Don't do anything to tarnish either name." As time went by, the circle of friends who came to call expanded, as well as, their unfamiliarity. So, I simply shortened my parental preaching to, "Remember two things and have a good time." Then, it was up to my children to explain what I meant, using that opportunity to share God's playbook with their buddies - in a much hipper lingo than mine. (I can just hear my daughter now: "Oh mom, that's so Sixties!")
Was it fate or just dumb luck? Neither, it was God's good will! But, if you wish to call it "good luck;" I have indeed been a fortunate parent in many respects. During their lifetimes, my children have been religiously faithful, intellectually advanced, artistically talented, aesthetically attractive and very successful in assembling a cadre of compatible companions. (I'm not kidding!) And throughout their forty-plus years, they have never given me one moment's trouble or compromised their Christian ethics personally, professionally, scholastically or socially. By God's grace, both have become successful people, making remarkable contributions to society and their families.
5. What is Your Personal Ministry?
135. Parenting - God's Way Part 2 of 2
82. I just watched a Stephen Colbert clip. I can’t...
68. Wonderful and amazing Lord, all is under Your control even the animals. We...
135. Parenting - God's Way Part 2 of 2 by Leigh
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6
Pray the Lord continues blessing my children and my granddaughters with the same good fortune as He's granted me. I was born to a Midwestern, Lutheran family with a long track record of Christian parents and grandparents. Sadly, however, my father and grandmother are no longer with us. They're at peace with the Lord; but I remain, having learned a great deal from their earthly examples of heavenly parenting.
Father was probably the most Christian man it's been my pleasure to examine or emulate. He was caring, gentle, generous, humble and never boisterous, not caring for the sound of his own voice. So, it was difficult to know exactly what he was thinking; yet, everyone knew he was a good parent by his actions. The only cinch in his Christian armor was one I can count on one hand - the times he graced our church's sanctuary. He truly loved the Lord and knew Christ; but, dad was reserved, soft-spoken and his faith remained a mystery. Regrettably, I never took the time to ask him directly. I understand he cannot be eternally saved without belief in Jesus as his Savior; and, at his death, not knowing frightened me. There was only God's promise to reassure me, a devastated daughter, whose hero was to be taken so quickly and far too soon.
When dad was at death's doorstep, before the doctors insisted we remove the life-support, I asked pastor, "How can I be sure I'll see him in Heaven?" Pastor knew our entire family for generations. So, calmly, he stared into the tear-drenched depths of my soul and said, "Unlike the well-meaning words of the mourners, who promise to be there if you need anything; God's word is the only thing you can depend on. Every time, He will do what He says, when He says it. Also, remember, your grandmother was a God-fearing parent. She taught your father, through The Word and by her example, about Jesus Christ, their Savior." Next, pastor consoled me with the same reassuring promise, given to my grandmother more than seventy years earlier: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." He was reminding me of the huge impact Grandma's religious principles had on my father, as well as, the positive influence her stern German coaching had on our entire family. To know that she, and my dad, used God's parenting strategies was consoling in that time of immeasurable grief.
Was it then; is it still, worth all the hard work and sacrifice needed to be an effective Christian parent? For me, yes! As a grown child - of God and man - a daughter, a mother and a Grammy Nana, I am undeniably comforted and encouraged, knowing my Lord keeps His promises about parenting - God's way!
5. What is Your Personal Ministry?
134. Parenting - God's Way Part 1 of 2
82. I just watched a Stephen Colbert clip. I can’t...
68. Wonderful and amazing Lord, all is under Your control even the animals. We...
136. Road Blocks are Mere Pebbles by Christine Wentzel
The Lenten season is upon us, and if the Lord wills, spring is right around the corner. He guarantees these seasons will come with opportunities for us to make Christ known. He also guarantees they will not be easy. The sinful world, the devil, and especially our own selves will attempt to sabotage our work. As we ponder the Lenten season looking forward to Easter and spring, let's resolve to remove some of our favorite stumbling blocks.
I recently came across a list of road blocks, women in particular trip over the most:
Forget stumbling blocks! This is more like a list of boulders! By our own strength, it's impossible to lift and throw them out of the way. But walking with Jesus, they are merely pebbles to be crushed under foot.
While drops of blood from His brow splattered down on the boulder Jesus successfully tackled in Gethsemane, He warns us to: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41
"Watch"--be aware and truthful about your weaknesses. As Jesus prayed so do we. Go to your Father and repent over the weakness then ask for forgiveness and the strength to overcome. Jesus promises that our "spirit is willing." This is super good news! His Holy Spirit faithfully strengthening us with His power to stomp on any and all stumbling blocks along the way!
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
Not just this spring or this Lenten season, but every day is a new start with Christ. Do not give up praying if the same block keeps popping up or when the new ones relentlessly appear. His Apostle Paul didn't and he encourages us with this inspired promise, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
Ladies, let's lift up this request and know the Lord is listening and helping to make the path clear before we can even finish praying for it to happen...
Dear Father in heaven, I ask you to forgive my sins of __________. I ask you to remove these road blocks once and for all. If I am to encounter them longer then for Your sake keep picking me back up that I may still be a beacon in the dark for Your lost loved ones I find along the Way. I ask in Jesus' name, Amen.
14. Don't Worry, be Happy...in the Lord!
130. I keep seeing memes on Facebook about keeping Christ...
52. My God of perfect orderly design, during your time of...
137. Choose Your Mood by Janet Gehlhar
What I think about determines my mood for the day. I noticed this when I thought about all the problems in the world or wallowed in self-pity over some injustice. I felt negative and my thoughts continued on that path for the day. Then I was challenged to have an attitude of gratitude. I was skeptical. But I still gave it a try. I continued to give all of my problems and concerns over to God in prayer, but then I ended my prayers by giving thanks for a list of things. At first I felt awkward because thankfulness didn't automatically flow. But, within a very short time, I found myself finding things to be thankful for all day long . . . a hot shower, electricity, a good hair day, comfy shoes, a pretty flower, enough food for one more meal so I didn't have to race to the grocery store . . . What amazed me most was that while nothing had changed around me or in my personal circumstances, I felt more upbeat and positive. I must admit that I didn't think it would last, but it has. In fact, my mind is training to pick out the good and to be thankful instead of being critical.
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers, 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.
I copied that passage and have it taped to the window where I do my dishes. It is a daily reminder to channel my thoughts to the excellent and praiseworthy.
138. The Christian’s Caller ID by Sandy Grussing
Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
My phone rang the other day and, as is my custom, I glanced at the Caller ID before deciding whether or not to answer it. I have a real aversion to talking to phone solicitors. This time, however, I was surprised to see that the Caller ID was PHONE SCAM. I have. I’ve never seen that before. Needless to say, I did not answer the phone.
I started to think about how much easier life would be if every call from Satan had a Caller ID; a flashing red light that said something like LIAR ALERT. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every false prophet wore a big sign identifying him (or her) as a WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING?
In Isaiah, God tells us that we do indeed have a Caller ID of sorts; an audible one, if we but listen.
Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
We learn in John, Chapter 8 how to recognize Satan.
John 8: 44 “He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning; not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
If it is a lie, it is from Satan. How do we know whether something is Satan’s lie or God’s truth? That’s easy. If it is in God’s Word, it is the truth.
John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
That brings us right back to our audible Caller ID. If I hadn’t looked at the Caller ID on my telephone I wouldn’t have known the call was a scam, would I? Likewise, if I don’t commit God’s Word to my mind and heart, I won’t know a lie when I see one and I risk answering a call from the devil.
Now, let’s be realistic. Satan, being the father of all liars, is indeed a very clever liar. Sometimes he even quotes scripture to back up his lies as he did when he tempted Jesus in the desert
Luke 4: 9-11 "The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ (Verse 12) In fact, Jesus answers everything Satan says with “It is written.” That tells us that no matter how clever the lie, it will never be clever enough to defeat the truth. God’s Word is truth. Study it well. It shows Satan up for the liar he is and gives you victory over him.
139. “Mary, Did You Know?” by Christine Wentzel
This beautiful song has become a modern day standard for our collection of favorite Christmas music. When I first heard these particular lines of the song’s lyrics, I actually got goose bumps…
“Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you…
When you’ve kissed your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.”
I always thought the writer of that song was asking Mary rhetorical questions for she knew quite a lot. God, himself told her in pretty clear words who this Child she would deliver actually was…
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end…So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:32-33.35b
She knew what the Lord told her future husband, Joseph…
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
She knew what the prophets of old foretold…
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
God didn't just make it clear to Mary; he makes his plans and promises clear to us, and our children as well.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17a
As we see the familiar scenes of Mary gazing down at her precious Son, look at the children around you. They, as well as we, share the inheritance given to us all by the work of that holy Child. When you hear that familiar song, think of one more possible verse…
Sisters, did you know that your baby boy will speak the words of Jesus?
Sisters, did you know that your baby girl will show the face of Christ?
Did you know that your cousin’s child will feed a hungry soul?
This grandchild you are holding will help the broke be whole…
Through the guidance of His heavenly Father and the godly rearing of Jesus’ parents and relatives, He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. Can we do any less for His other children?
140. Nobody Knows by Christine Wentzel
“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Can you relate? Say Amen.
“Trouble” starts with “t” and that stands for “troublemaker.” The devil would like nothing better than to stir up some trouble with those thoughts of separation by using them to build an isolation booth to lock yourself into. Then he wins the ultimate goal: permanent separation from the only One who knows your trouble.
The writer of this old spiritual knew that so well. The rest of the verse is pure Gospel. “Nobody knows but Jesus” and then finishes with joy-filled praise, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, Glory hallelujah!”
Will you experience feelings of despair, hopelessness or depression? Yep, it’s a sad condition of our sinful nature—the side of us that’s still stuck in this cursed world ruled by a wicked antagonist of our heavenly Father and His children.
So here’s the Good News! What this song is speaking about are the virtues of a redeemed sinner: long-suffering, patience and endurance with joy. You’d be hard pressed to declare your identity in Christ without it. As Jesus suffered, so do we. Why? Because He tells us so. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19 Glory hallelujah!
Here’s your choice…do you want to stay in that dead-ended isolation booth staring through your tears at the four dirty walls? Or, do you want to look up and see His pierced hands reaching in to pull you out?
You see, the devil forgot to build a ceiling. He’s biting his nails to the quick hoping you don’t figure it out. God always gives you an escape route. His Word is the answer book revealing all of them. Not only that, but in pure loving concern He sends helpers—your spiritual family of pastors, teachers, friends, co-workers, family and even perfect strangers in your time of need AND in your time of rejoicing.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that 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 8:35-39
141. Sad Prayers by Julie Luetke
Have you ever prayed for a person whose life seems hopeless? I do not mean near death from a sickness. I mean dying spiritually from poor choices freely made. When a mother or father asks for prayers for a wayward child, it is a very sad prayer. By the time a woman asks for prayers for a husband who has drunk himself out of a job and into poor health and a broken home, she has been praying a long time. It is a very sad prayer.
When asked to pray for such a person, I often find myself at a loss for words. The damage has been done. What do I say now? Even if the person in trouble turns around, they still have a criminal record, an addiction to fight for life, a child who will need care, and guilt that seems too heavy to bear.
Recently, a mother told me her prayers did not seem enough and asked me to pray for her son. I did not know what to pray. Over the past few years, this woman and her husband have wrung their hands of his horrible behavior. These parents continually hang their heads in shame, not for their own actions but for those of an adult child who leaves hurt in his wake like black tire marks on the street. They last a long time.
The day I was asked to pray for this young man, my daily Bible reading took me to Proverbs 3-6. Those chapters talk of a person led astray by his folly. Words like the ones below helped me to pray for my friend’s son.
Prov. 5:3 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Prov. 3:12 The Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Prov. 3:13-15 Blessed is the man who gains wisdom [knowledge of God’s word]…more profitable than silver…nothing you desire can compare with her [wisdom].
There is not enough space here to share all of the proverbs I read, but they helped me know what to pray. My prayers were still sad, but not without substance and hope. My prayers went out for the parents who are hurting.
Hosea 6:1 Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds.
The son will have consequences for his many foolish sinful actions, but the Lord forgives and brings us back to Himself.
Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Psalm 103:11b-12 So great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
God is surely still listening to the prayers of the parents and friends of the foolish.
142. The Royal Wardrobe by Gloria Marcouiller
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
“What should I wear?” Many times women ask this question of other women in regards to an upcoming event. We want to know if we should dress casual, semi-casual, business attire, semi-formal, or formal! We want to fit in with what everyone else is wearing. Showing up to a function dressed in something nice, but basic, when everyone else is dressed to the hilt, can make for an awkward entrance, and sometimes an early exit! We want to feel beautiful and look beautiful in what we are wearing. It boosts our self-esteem!
Like most women, you may have spent hours going through racks of clothes and trying on each dress or outfit until you found just the right one that said, “Wow!” or “This is me!” Maybe you absolutely despise shopping and want to quickly find what looks great, buy it, and be done with it!
Whatever path we take to reach our goal, the bottom line is that we still want to feel good about ourselves, and our appearance! Most recently, all eyes were focused on the royal wedding of the prince to his princess bride and what royal attire would be worn for this extraordinary occasion!
We may need to change our focus and choose to ask ourselves what God’s perspective is. The most expensive and the most beautiful clothes in the world will not compare to the royal wardrobe our King has chosen for us to wear. He asks us to put on five, very well chosen garments of clothing that coordinate perfectly!
COMPASSION: His great mercy, His all-encompassing tender love!
KINDNESS: His goodness of heart!
HUMILITY: His meek and humble Spirit!
GENTLENESS: His sweet reasonableness towards us!
PATIENCE: His persistent endurance to abide with us no matter what! He chose us as His very own. He says we are holy and dearly loved! We are esteemed by Him!
Most holy and gracious God, you are the one I praise. Thank you for your precious words that encourage me and clothe my soul in royal robes of splendor! Help me to believe that my true worth and self-esteem comes from you. May my focus be on the beauty of Christ living in me, and that alone will truly give me the wholeness that you desire for my life. You graciously make all things beautiful in my life! Give me a thankful heart that is loyal to you, and that brings honor to my royal king!
143. God Made Me by Carolyn Webb
God made me and God doesn’t make junk. It sounds like a really nice statement, perhaps even a life affirming statement. But think about when you might have heard this statement or maybe even used it yourself. I have to admit that whenever I’ve used the phrase it is an attempt to justify something I know isn’t right. I’m bossy, I’m a gossip, I’m a pessimist, but all that’s ok because God made me and God doesn’t make junk.
The sad part about this statement is that it is only partially true. It is a classic case of how Satan takes God’s Word and twists it.
Truth: God made me.
Half-truth: God doesn’t make junk. God did create a perfect universe.
What’s missing: Man fell into sin and every human since that fall is born as a sinful human. Romans 5:12 tells us “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,” and Romans 3:23 confirms that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
The danger: If God made me and God doesn’t make junk, then I don’t need help being reconciled with God. I don’t need a Savior.
People who recognize they don’t meet God’s perfect expectations know that the only way to be right with God is through the perfect life and innocent death of God’s Son, Jesus. Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Yes, God loves us just as were are, not because our sinfulness is acceptable to Him, but because His Son wiped our slate clean and we can be called righteous. The real comfort isn’t that God made me and God doesn’t make junk, but God made me and forgives all my junk.
144. Covered! By Karen Maio
Getting ready to chaperone my son’s first grade school track meet, I felt like I was packing for a tropical vacation! I had the stadium chair, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, an umbrella, face sunscreen, body sunscreen, SPF 1000 lip balm, the camera, a water supply, and of course, the sack lunch. I felt ridiculous! I looked around longingly at all the people sitting on the bleachers who were soaking up the sun. I used to be one of them. In grade school, the annual track meet would be the sunburn that kicked off summer. In high school, we’d lie out in the back of the dormitory, with next to nothing on, slather ourselves in baby oil, and (if we were really “lucky”) fry away on a silver reflective blanket. But on track day 2010, I sat there in my big floppy hat, taking note of all the people who were turning various shades of pink and red, wishing I could warn each one of them of the very real danger of skin cancer. My son said, “Mom, you look like you’re going to the Kentucky Derby.” I held back my retort of, “Well, then fetch me a mint julep!” and said, “I’ll sit over here and try not to embarrass you.” But I was covered. I was protected.
Life’s like that. Maybe you say or do things you can’t take back or un-do, maybe bad things happen. Then you worry about it (because we all know that worrying makes our problems go away - ha!); then, maybe you feel guilty about worrying, so you try harder to do better, be a better spouse, mom, daughter, sister, person. Then maybe other bad things happen and you start to worry about it...
Relax! You’re covered! Way better than hiding under a big hat or having Sun Protection Factor (SPF), you’ve got Son Protection Factor! “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)
Got a problem? Are bad things happening? Worrying...again? Take it to Jesus; right away! Then leave it there. “He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”(Ephesians 3:20)
Feel the weight of sin? He’s got all our sins covered, too, with his death on the cross!
It’s not always easy, but we have to trust him. He promises to do what’s best for us...in his time. He’s got you covered! In the meantime, try to stop worrying. Keep on praying. Oh, and wear your sunscreen!
145. Drink Up! By Tracy Hankwitz
Plants need water to grow. This is a basic fact that we learned as young children and one that every gardener knows. Why, then, are there wilted, drooping plants in my yard? Why do I wait until they are on the point of death that I decide to take the time to water them? When I do find the necessary few minutes to drench them in life-giving water, it amazes me to see how quickly they perk up and return to their pre-drought state.
I pondered my aversion to watering my plants. I can see that they desperately need water and are depending on me for it, so why don’t I take the time to water them? Perhaps because my day is full of other important activities: getting the kids up on time, packing lunches, catching the bus; then getting myself ready for the day, going to work at the office or at home, dealing with job- related issues; then after work it’s off to soccer games, or football, then prepare a somewhat healthy meal for the family, help with homework, get the kids to bed and maybe find a few minutes to relax. When am I supposed to water the plants?
As busy as we are, we are the ones that desperately need that life-giving water. Are you thirsty for peace amidst the morning’s chaos? Are you thirsty for joy as you stare at another sink full of dirty dishes? Are you thirsty for a Savior who loves you despite the many times you forget to turn to him for a drink?
Our Master Gardener is waiting to water us with his refreshing word of life. He alone can fill us with peace and give us joy. A few minutes spent in his presence studying his word can give us the strength to get through the day. Schedule time with the Lord, make it part of your daily routine. That is how we grow in faith. He says in Jeremiah 17:4 “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Busy lives can leave us spiritually wilted if we don’t begin each day with a dose of God’s word. As we drink from the stream of life, we are refreshed and we grow. When the heat of troubles come, God will give us the strength to bear them because our “leaves are always green” and our roots are strong. And we can bear fruit that will be a blessing to God, to ourselves and to our families. So, drink up!
146. No More Cloudy Days by Christine Wentzel
One day I was listening to a song on my mp3 player and I had to hit the “repeat” button. Did I really hear that? Glenn Frey crooned again…
I would never make you cry,
I would never make you blue,
I would never let you down,
I would never be untrue.
Ah, if only that were true, but the sad fact is no one can keep these promises! I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18
But a funny thing happened the next time I heard this song. I thought to myself, “I know who can keep these promises!” So instead of Glenn Frey, I imagined the voice of Jesus singing through the speakers. The song morphed into a ballad of comfort and hope…
I know a place
Where we can go
Where true love always stays
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:3
There are no more stormy nights
No more cloudy days
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, Revelation 21:4
My merciful Redeemer sang on…
I believe in second chances…
I believe in new romances
Baby I believe in you.
These cloudy days
Are coming to an end
And you don’t have to be afraid to fall in love again.
"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'…But the father said…For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate… Luke 15:21, 24
The next time you are listening to a favorite love song, and hear the promises that can’t be kept, remember the voice of the One who loves you with an everlasting love… Jeremiah 31:3
147. Urban Legends by Christine Wentzel
Are you familiar with those words? Look at the e-mails you receive—some stating titillating “facts” about well-known people, pleading “fundraisers”, urgent prayers or heart-warming “stories.” I received a few saying that even though the story isn’t true, it’s still a good tale. I’m thinking, “No, it’s designed to appear real and I don’t like that.” If I read something particularly troubling, I’ll go to one of the urban legend-busting websites. Rarely do they prove to be completely true.
Many of you might remember this popular phrase from the ‘60’s, “Just the facts ma’am.” (dum de dum dum) Did you know that even this is not actually true? If you’re thinking Sgt. Joe Friday from Dragnet said that, you’d only be partially right. That quote originated from a spoof of Dragnet. What the sergeant really said was, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”
So what’s the big deal? Well, we live in a damaged world that easily and quickly conditions us to jump to conclusions. That’s a slippery slide into breaking the LORD’s 8th commandment; You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. For that’s what most urban legends and wrong conclusions are: harming our neighbor’s name and reputation. Who is our neighbor? Everyone.
It doesn’t seem to affect us much unless we intimately know the person the legend or conclusion is talking about or what if it were about ourselves? Consider these headlines from “The Devil’s Daily Distortions”:
TWO GODLY MEN ENTER HOUSE OF PROSTITUTE—SLINK OUT THE BACK WINDOW!
CHURCH LEADER WALKS SON INTO WOODS—POINTS KNIFE AT HIS CHEST!
Oh my, really? Stop reading now and you’ll miss some very important facts when I tell you the prostitute’s name was Rahab and she was protecting the two spies Joshua sent to scope out the Promised Land. Rahab is listed in the lineage of Jesus! Does it change your thinking to know that the church leader and his son were Abraham and Isaac?
One sure fire way to improve your own personal ministry is to remember “Just the facts ma’am.” Don’t forward e-mails that aren’t true. Give the benefit of the doubt if you see (or hear) what appears to be a bad moment for someone. Don’t wonder about it, or talk to someone else about it. Instead put the best construction on it. If absolutely necessary, go to the person with the heart of a Christ-like love and ask her (him).
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25 NIV
148. Turn Lemons into Lemonade by Christine Wentzel
One day I found myself sitting alone in a chilly, darkened hospital room waiting to take a major heart test. Being in my early 40’s this was the last thing I expected to be doing. Shocked, frightened and downright mad I sat there stewing in my misery. An older African American woman walked in and our eyes met with the same knowing look of what we faced ahead. We both smiled and mumbled a faint hello. After a minute or two, she asked me how I was doing. I told her the truth and finished with a resigned “Whatever, there’s nothing to be done about it.” She replied, “We can pray” and I agreed.
She spoke to our Healer in a quiet, but confident tone. It was just long enough to slow down my racing heart. Then a nurse came in calling my name. As I stood to leave, this woman of grace blessed me and said she hoped to get to know me someday. As I write this I am looking forward to getting to know her too.
My wise, watchful sister in Christ made lemonade out of our batch of lemons. The taste was sweet and long lasting. She had no idea if I knew my Savior or not, but took advantage of a God-given opportunity anyway. She had no idea it helped me lay my fears at the cross of Christ and trust in His perfect Providence. She had no idea she was an inspiring demonstration of a Gospel-motivated life.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message...Pray that I may proclaim it clearly. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:2-5
The Apostle Paul encourages us to never give up praying, to be alert and thankful. He assures us there will be opportunity to reveal the Gospel and there will be more than one chance to do it. God will not give us opportunities we cannot handle. They will be tailor made for us and the situation.
When each time presents itself, it’ll be up to you to take the next step. Ask yourself if you see a need you can fill, an encouraging word you can say, or a prayer you can lift up to Jesus. Many times it begins with a friendly smile and warm hello. They are the perfect ice breakers for anyone we meet.
Stay in the Word and work on God’s recipe. As any cook knows, practice makes perfect. Don’t hesitate to help turn someone’s sour lemons into spiritually sweet, life-giving lemonade.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
149. Loved by God and Loving Others by Janet Gehlhar
It’s Valentine’s Day. . . a day we think about who we love and who loves us. Will you receive Valentine cards and maybe a gift or flowers? Maybe you will wake up to being presented a homemade valentine from one of your children.
As I was thinking about love, I checked my concordance in my Bible and found almost 3 pages of references to the word love. God has a lot to say about love.
We all know that God loves us.
One of the first songs we learned was “Jesus Loves Me this I Know.”
We know that Jesus loved us first.
John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.
God wants us to love him with our whole heart.
Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
God tells us not to love the world.
I John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
We can show our love by how we live.
Ephesians 5:1-4 Be imitators of God . . . as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Today I want to remember how much God loves me, continue to reach out in love to those around me, and to let my light shine for Jesus.
150. Are Your Roots Showing? By Christine Wentzel
I am blessed with snow white hair covering the entire front half of my scalp. In the back and sides it shades into gray and then my lovely, mousy brown. Now that my age is catching up to my hair color, my positive outlook for this fact is catching up too.
God says, Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. Proverbs 16:31 (NIV) Looking back on my life, I wouldn’t consider my white hair the result of righteousness. It seems more from genetics, stress, worry and iffy health. However what God means is that a godly life lived as an example for many will find His Master saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:21 (NIV)
Most women choose to keep their natural roots covered. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as their hearts are focused not on their beauty but on beauty’s Creator.
There is however another sort of hiding that doesn’t please God. What about hiding the “roots” of our godly living? I can hear it now, “Huh?” How about if I ask you this? Does anyone know how you came to faith? How you survive trials? What makes your faith grow?
As with everyone else in the world, Christians also experience fears and trials in varying degrees at different times of their life. We all can relate to the challenges in handling them. It sometimes seems a bit disconcerting to me when I am around a consistently happy Christian. I try to put the best construction on it while hunting for surface cracks. Sometimes I end up walking away feeling like a failure in that I can’t seem to be that happy all the time. Maybe if I had taken the time to ask the reason for their continual joy, I would have found they only gained it after walking through some very deep valleys.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 1 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)
That’s where encouragement and building each other up comes into the picture. Don’t hide the “roots” of your sure hope in the Lord. If you are an older sister in Christ like me who is blessed with several decades of experience under your belt, you have something valuable to pass on. Delight in your knowledge gained from your weaknesses and don’t hesitate to share it. If you’re new to the faith or a younger sister in Christ don’t hesitate to ask an experienced counterpart what helps her carry on. Your inquisitiveness, youthful enthusiasm and respect will put a purposeful step in her walk and you will have gained more insight into your own sure hope in the Lord.
Women, show your “roots!” You might just be surprised at the results!