Category Archives: Summer 2016

If Only

Earlier in my adult life it seemed the “if onlys” filled many of my days:If I Only Had a

If only my husband traveled less.

If only I had a bigger house.

If only there was more money left over after paying the bills.

If only I was physically stronger.

My thinking was if all those things were in order, then I could effectively serve God.

 

Are you allowing your circumstances to stifle how God wants you to serve?

If we wait until everything lines up and is in order, we’ll never get anything done. God places us where He wants us, and it’s up to us to take advantage of available opportunities. Granted, there will always be conditions or surroundings we’d like to alter, but I’m heartened with what the Apostle Paul shares with the early church at Philippi: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11b-12, NIV)

Satan delights in hindering us through our circumstances. It was difficult back in the years when my husband traveled extensively for business. After many episodes of frustration, we learned to keep a detailed calendar and arrange opportunities to serve, along with setting aside precious family time, to fit in our schedule. It didn’t always work out how we would prefer on all occasions, but God was faithful to provide.

Maybe your house is small and you’re uncomfortable hosting a Bible study, small group meeting, or having the pastor over for dinner. We recently downsized our home, and yes, I do have to gather extra chairs around our family room when people come over, but it works. Through this I’ve learned people have a higher comfort level when everything isn’t perfect. Be encouraged to go ahead and take those important steps of hospitality even if the house isn’t just right.

Money woes and physical issues, along with all the other “if onlys,” take away from and delay us in living fully as God intended. Am I grateful for where God has placed me, including all the circumstances of my life, and for the unique works He has created just for me? Colossians 2:7 (NIV) exhorts me to be, “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

I know God has situated me exactly where He wants me. I must secure a strong foundation by strengthening my faith and abounding with gratitude. I’m able to firmly root myself by accepting the works He has prepared for me to do no matter what I think my situation is or what I want it to look like.

Father God, Please enable me to remove my attitude of “if only” and replace it with an attitude of “what’s possible.” Thank you for placing me exactly where you want me with my unique set of circumstances. May my life bring you glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

1 Corinthians 7:17 (ISV): “Nevertheless, everyone should live the life that the Lord gave him and to which God called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV): “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Summer 2016

It Comes with a Cost

Imagine owning a big home, a substantial place, where friends and fellow believers are comfortable gathering.It Comes with a Cost In this home meals are plentiful and the conversation is enlightening. Wintertime would ensure a fire burning in the fireplace, and in the summertime the air conditioning and ceiling fans provide the comfort everyone desires. Visitors know it as a safe haven where those in trouble receive acceptance, prayer occurs, and care is given.

Such was Mary’s home. It’s only two verses of scripture, and what we know of her we glean from that single passage. Acts 12:12-13 introduces us to Mary, John Mark’s mom, one of the Mary’s we encounter in the New Testament:

“When this had dawned on him, he [Peter] went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.” (NIV)

Let’s quickly set the scene. Herod had arrested some believers in the early church. With the goal of persecuting them, he executed James and placed Peter in prison. An angel of the Lord appeared to the Apostle Peter while he was in prison and miraculously released him. After realizing he was now free, Peter immediately knew where to go. He knew he could go to Mary’s home. She was an ally.

It appears Mary had a large home since many people were present. Scripture mentions it was her house, so scholars assume she was a widow. This spacious home was a well-known center of early Christian life and worship, and legend holds it as the location of the Upper Room. Since Peter knocked at the outer entrance, it seems there was a meeting place within the walls of her home with a large enough room or rooms for people to gather. Obviously, she was affluent, and she had at least one servant, Rhoda.

Many of us aspire being like Mary, and believe if only we had a big house and more financial freedom, we could also effectively serve God. But with these privileges and Mary’s willingness to serve, there was a cost attached which we don’t often see or consider. Her obedience, service, and hospitality involved great personal risk on her part, as the early church was encountering their first wave of persecution at this time. I see a woman who was brave; a woman who risked all she had for the early church. Later, she would have to release her son, John Mark, for him to travel with Paul on his first missionary journey (see Acts 12:25). She was a woman who was willing to let go; a woman who knew it all comes with a cost.

You may envision your  “dream” house as large and comfortably furnished. However,

Great responsibility, and often sacrifice, come with God’s provision and gifts.

Usually there is more than what we see on the surface, and we need to embrace the whole package.

Father God, So often I assume if only I had the financial means and the bigger home, I too, could serve you more effectively. What I’m realizing, though, is often there’s more than what I see on the surface. For with these gifts, come great responsibility and often sacrifice. Please enable me to open my home and practice hospitality right where you’ve placed me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Luke 12:48 (NLT): “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

Romans 12:13 (NIV): “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

1 Peter 4:9 (NLT): “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Summer 2016

Awesome is a Word Reserved for God

A brightly shining sun filtered in to the screened porch where a group of us had gathered on a nice spring afternoon. Awesome is a Word Reserved for GodAs we were sipping our sweet tea, one of the women was sharing some special things which had happened to her recently. It was a normal conversation, but it didn’t take long for another lady to say, “That’s awesome!” Hearing that phrase bothered me, and I quietly cringed.

We speak words carelessly these days, tossing them around lightly. While describing a vacation, a new purchase, or an event someone witnessed, often the typical response is, “Awesome!” I find my spirit disturbed, as

Awesome is a word we should reserve for God.

Merriam-Webster.com defines awesome as, “Causing feelings of fear and wonder; extremely good.” If we unpack it further, the definition of awe is, “An emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” This tells me our sacred living God who reigns with authority is awesome.

One of the first Biblical uses of the word awesome occurs in Exodus 15:11 when Moses and the Israelites were singing praises to God for their deliverance from Pharaoh and his army. “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (NIV) This praise paints a picture of God’s attributes, and gives us a glimpse of His awesomeness.

Everything about God is awesome, and several distinctions which stand out are:

First, God’s deeds or works are awesome. God created the heavens and the earth; He orchestrates events and accomplishes miracles. I stand amazed at his workmanship. “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:5, NIV) Even in today’s crazy world, God’s mighty hand is evident as we view His creation and witness what He does in our lives.

Second, God’s love is awesome. God’s love for us is complete and perfect, and we see in the Old Testament the prophet Nehemiah praying, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands.” (Nehemiah 1:5, NIV) God’s love is perfectly demonstrated when He came to earth as Jesus Christ to die for our sins. “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.” (Psalm 111:9, NIV) God’s gift of salvation to each of us who believe in Him epitomizes His love for us. Now that is awesome.

Third, God’s name is awesome. We are to hold His name in high regard, treat it with respect, and cherish it in our heart. “Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy.” (Psalm 99:3, NIV) As I go about my day, I praise God’s sacred name for He alone is holy. Nothing else comes close.

God’s works, love, and name are important considerations when we choose our words and form our conversations. I pray I will select my words carefully, and remember awesome is a word reserved for God.

Father God, You alone are awesome. Your deeds are magnificent, your love is complete and perfect, and your name is Holy. Please help me to treat your name with the esteem it deserves. You are mighty and awesome, and I thank you for your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Exodus 34:10b (NIV): “The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.”

Psalm 65:5 (NIV): “You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.”

Psalm 68:35 (NIV): “You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.”

Psalm 47:2 (NIV): “How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!”

Deuteronomy 10:17 (NIV): “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Summer 2016

How to Achieve Your Dreams

Imagine a quiet neighborhood on a lazy, summer day in south Texas in the 1960’s. Our particular ranch-style home had a vast backyard and I had two favorite go-to spots in my yard. One was in the nook next to the banana plants and the other was up in the fork of a large climbing tree. I could lie in either place for hours and dream of all the things I was going to be and do. Granted, the hopes of that 9-year-old girl were far different from the goals of this adult woman, or dare I say it, Grandma. My aspirations have changed with time, and the means to achieve these dreams has matured as my walk with the Lord has progressed.

We all have dreams—some of them realized and some of them not. Are we putting off working toward our desires because we don’t know where to begin? Or, because we think it’s too late in life to do something? Or, because someone might think it’s crazy or silly?

If we believe God’s Word confirms our dream as something He wants for us, then it’s time to ask for His help.

Some powerful ways to pray are verbs which all begin with the letter “E”: Encourage, Enable, Equip, and Empower.

“Dear Lord, please encourage me to visualize the task or dream.” When I pray for encouragement, the Holy Spirit invigorates me with purpose which I submit to Him. The Lord encourages us by making us “determined, hopeful, and confident” our aspiration can actually happen. (Merriam-Webster.com, 2016) In Psalm 20:4 (NIV) we draw inspiration from the words, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Furthermore, we’re assured, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

“Dear Lord, please enable me to begin the task.” Our Lord will provide you with the means or opportunity to make your goal possible. In computer lingo, enable means to make something operational or to activate. And, that’s exactly what the power of the Spirit will do when you ask according to His will. What a beautiful word picture David paints in Psalm 18:33 (NIV) when he describes how God prepared him for battle: “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.”

“Dear Lord, please equip me to perform the task.” You will find yourself supernaturally equipped with ability and everything you need for the situation if you ask the Lord to provide. Just as an expert chef lays out her cooking utensils, positions her pots and pans, and completes her prep work so she can proceed with cooking, the Lord readies us in advance. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NIV)

“Dear Lord, please empower me to see through and finish the task.” We can absolutely depend on the Holy Spirit to help us persevere. After all, the Lord doesn’t want us to give up if our aspiration is part of His plan for our life! Your dream will see realization through His empowerment. An Old Testament prophet, Azariah, exhorted King Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:7 (NIV) with these timeless words, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

My dreams have changed since those lazy summer days I enjoyed as a young girl, but our Lord knows the desires of our hearts. He hears our cries and tells us it’s not too late and we’re not too crazy to dream big and turn our hopes and goals over to Him.

Father God, I have big dreams, tasks, and challenges which I humbly submit to you. Please encourage, enable, equip, and empower me to boldly go forward on what you have birthed in me. I acknowledge you have set these goals before me, and trust you will see them through to completion. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Proverbs 19:21 (NIV): “Many are the plans in a [woman’s] heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 16:3 (ESV): “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

Isaiah 32:8 (NIV): “But the noble [woman] makes noble plans, and by noble deeds [she] stands.”

Ephesians 3:20-21a (NIV): “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory ….”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Summer 2016

A Sip Won’t Quench

Perched on the rim of the birdbath the little bird took tiny, delicate sips of water. Reflecting on what I was seeing, my thoughts shifted to my friend’s dog, Angus, deliberately plunging his whole head into his water bowl and delightedly slurping it all up.bucket-999973_640 lg font Angus’s technique was sloppy, but he delved in with gusto, while the bird gingerly took a meager amount of water. Is this how we approach taking in God’s Word? Are we reading just a small snippet of scripture here and there or are we drenching ourselves in the Bible?

We’ll never be able to confront the crazy world we live in if we don’t surround ourselves in His Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the [woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV) Life is difficult and today’s culture continually shifts what truth is. We no longer hold veracity in high esteem. Our world is blurred; borders defining right and wrong are hazy. How is a woman of faith able to take her stand and live her life admirably?

Only by saturating ourselves in God’s Word will we be able to discern truth.

Then, we can apply Godly principles and live them out.

Immersing yourself in scripture can, at times, get messy. God’s Word will penetrate our souls, which often means we will need to clean things up in our lives. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT) When the Word infiltrates and reveals those things about ourselves we’d rather keep below the surface, it’s painful. But this is where God’s cleansing power can take place.

Researchers tell us when a dog gulps water, their tongue acts as a ladle. I imagine myself taking in God’s Word just like a dog’s tongue laps up water. Going even further, backsplash inundates dogs when they drink. It’s like a flood. I choose bathing myself in God’s Word as I go forth each day to live it to the fullest. The only way I’ll know the Word is by immersing myself in the Word.

Father God, Help me to surround myself in your Holy Word. I need to consume all the truths your Word reveals in order to go in the direction you desire for me. Please empower me to take in, absorb, and apply your Word in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NIV)

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4, NIV)

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, NIV)

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105, NLT)

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Summer 2016