A Fresh Start

We have a new year and a new beginning—ushering in thoughts of fresh starts, a chance to do things differently, or even over again. How will we use the New Year our Lord has given us? Even though it’s the middle of winter, my mind skips ahead to springtime when I first observe the daylily leaves in my garden pushing through the soil. Crumpled over at first, the leaves appear fragile. But with exposure to the sun and rain and air they are able to strengthen and flourish, eventually growing into mature plants with numerous beautiful flowers. I want to grow stronger and substantial this year. Will you join me in this endeavor?

What change do you desire in your life this New Year?

  • Strength and maturity in your walk with the Lord
  • Consistent Bible reading and study
  • A deliberate prayer life
  • More time devoted to meaningful relationships
  • A renewed focus on utilizing your spiritual gifts in service to God and His church

Joshua chapter 2 contains the narrative of the prostitute Rahab, and how she sheltered and protected two Israelite spies who Joshua had sent out to investigate the city of Jericho. By aligning herself with the God of Israel, rather than her idolatrous past, she obtained a fresh start when the Israelites spared her life, along with her family, during the destruction of Jericho. Rahab was to tie a scarlet cord, perhaps symbolizing the blood of the Passover lamb, in her window. This act of confessing and obeying God provided her escape from the wicked Canaanite lifestyle to one of grace and provision. God’s grace—a beautiful, true story—provided Rahab with a fresh start. And, His grace can do the same for us.

We all start out with the best of intentions at the onset of a new year, but there’s a lot clamouring for our attention these days. And soon, we may find ourselves discouraged as events hamper our good choices, and behavioural changes don’t often look the way we imagined. Family responsibilities, busyness, traffic, time on the computer, and household chores deplete us, robbing us not only of our time but also of our joy. However, it all comes down to our choices, just as it did in Rahab’s life. Will we put God first as she did, and allow the old lifestyle choices to fall away? Only then will you and I move forward in what He wants us to be about.

Jesus tells the parable, in Matthew 13, of the sower who scatters his seed in different places. Verse 7 tells us some of the seed fell among thorns, and as this seed grew, the thorns choked out the new plants. Verse 22 explains the thorns represent the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” choking out God’s Word and making us unfruitful.

Don’t allow the weeds of life, many planted by the enemy, stifle the best that God wants for us. Rather, let’s choose to be like those daylily leaves springing forth into a mature plant with elegant and pleasing flowers.

Father God, I want 2018 to look different. I desire to spend more time in your Word, praying, and committed to living a life pleasing to you. Please grant me a fresh start as I commit to aligning myself with you and putting you first. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Job 8:7 (NIV): “Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”

Isaiah 43:19 (NIV): “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Acts 3:19 (NIV): “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Colossians 1:10-11 (NIV): “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience ….”

© 2018 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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When God Says: “Do It My Way”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, over half of Americans (55%) say they pray daily. Women respond as more likely to pray daily than men do (64% versus 46%). With the majority of us women praying, we can logically conclude that there are many different types of answers we receive to our prayers. A Pearl of Great Value will be exploring a few of these in a seven-part series on prayer entitled, “When God Says ….”

Part 2 of 7

Through the marsh in our neighborhood, there’s a bridge under repair, and we’ve had to drive a long distance out of our way to get into town. Certainly not the most direct route, and in my mind, not the most efficient, but it is the only way we can travel. Just as we take the detour to get to where we need to go, we often find detours in life. Have you been praying for direction and you feel there are roadblocks or obstacles always presenting themselves? Perhaps God wants you to follow the detour sign in order to do it His way.

Why does God often put detours into our lives in order to get us to do it His way, and not the way we desire to do things?

Protection, new perspective, and for prospering in His blessing are reasons God will steer us to do it His way.

  1. For protection. If you’ve ever followed Google Maps, you may sometimes find it routes you in a strange or alternative way to get to your destination. However, it’s often for our safety as there may be an accident ahead or a road closure. Just as Google Maps relies on Real Time Traffic Information to ascertain the advancing road conditions, God sees the big picture. He may require us to do it His way in order to offer His protection. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2Thessalonians 3:3, NIV) as he exhorted the believers in Thessalonica. We can trust God’s character and his assurance of safeguarding.
  2. For a new perspective. We condition ourselves to do the routine, familiar thing. We’re creatures of habit and don’t like change; we savor comfort. Often God wants us to approach a situation differently. Perhaps it’s a different approach to disciplining a child you never would have considered, or a way to deal with a delicate family issue. God desires to show you His perspective by steering you differently as you pray about a situation. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) states, “ˋFor my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,ˊ declares the Lord. ˋAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.ˊ” God may offer us a different viewpoint, as we seek His will.
  3. For prospering in His blessing. God positions you for His blessing when we obey Him, because “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV). The calm, peaceful inner confidence He provides when you’re obedient to His way is a blessing beyond measure.

When we confront various roadblocks and obstacles in our life, perhaps our Lord is urging us to consider a different direction—His approach and His way.

Father God, I’m at a crossroads and sense you compelling me to do it your way. I desire your protection, your perspective, and the prosperity of your blessing in this situation as I yield to you. It’s all for your praise and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 5:11 (NIV): “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”

Psalm 128:1 (NIV): “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.”

Proverbs 14:12 (NIV): “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Romans 11:33 (NIV): “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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When God Says: “Quit Procrastinating!”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, over half of Americans (55%) say they pray daily. Women respond as more likely to pray daily than men do (64% versus 46%). With the majority of us women praying, we can logically conclude that there are many different types of answers we receive to our prayers. A Pearl of Great Value will be exploring a few of these in a seven-part series on prayer entitled, “When God Says ….” 

Part 1 of 7

Writing—I’m passionate about it. I’ve maintained journals through the years, developed Bible study curricula, and did some editing work. But, I desired more and felt certain God had a plan for me. When I prayed about what to do, all I heard from our Lord was, “Quit procrastinating and get started!” “But how, Lord?” I would counter. It was my ready excuse.

Once I made the decision I couldn’t put this off any longer, God started putting His plan in motion for me. Through various events, He directed me to write Christian devotions and articles, but I didn’t know exactly what this would personally look like. After enrolling in an online writing course and hunkering down at the computer to write, God brought people into my life to encourage me in this endeavor and it started to take shape. Additionally, our oldest daughter and her husband became instrumental on the website/email newsletter portion of what would soon become a ministry handcrafted by the Lord for me.

What desires have you hidden in your heart that you want to accomplish? These dreams won’t just happen, as it’s a lot easier to procrastinate than spring into action. Most of us savor lounging around in God’s grace, but

God’s grace is not an excuse for laziness.

The book of Proverbs contains plentiful admonitions concerning laziness, often referring to such people as sluggards. Didn’t King Solomon and the other wise writers certainly have a way with words? One of my favorites is Proverbs 6:6 (NIV), “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” Ants are industrious insects always unified in their hard work, and scripture directs us to learn from them. We’re also promised, “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” (Proverbs 13:4, NIV). When we’re diligent there will be satisfaction.

If you’re praying and asking “But how, Lord?” as I did, then you’re well into the first step which is to earnestly seek God. If the Lord has laid something on our hearts—a ministry to perform, a job to accomplish, a relationship to restore—He will direct our paths (see Proverbs 3:5-6).

As we ask the Lord to help us over our hesitation and delay, it’s time to formulate a plan of action. But, and it’s a very big but, be prepared for God to tweak the plan! As we submit our plans to the Master Designer, He will shed light on the best way to accomplish the goal. Opportunities will appear, friends and family will be there to encourage, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit will provide what we need.

Just do it—I love this famous advertising logo for a sporting goods manufacturer. There will be some obstacles and stumbles along with the successes, but if God’s in it, we can step forward with confidence.

And finally, be diligent and faithful to what He has purposed and set out for you. When we’ve overcome the procrastination obstacle, we certainly want to stay the course until the Lord directs otherwise. Romans 12:11 (NIV) instructs us to, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Father God, There’s so much I want to do and I’ve been putting it off for far too long. I’m ashamed when I think about how much time has gone by. Please help me to stop procrastinating, to start praying, and to begin preparing. I desire to do what you have for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Proverbs 14:23 (NIV): “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

Luke 12:35 (NIV): “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.”

Galatians 6:9 (NIV): “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

James 4:17 (NIV): “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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But I Made All These Plans

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

Life was going along smoothly until one Saturday morning when my husband walked in the house holding the front page of The Wall Street Journal which announced the company he had faithfully worked at for 32 years was being “acquired” by another company. So began a roller coaster ride as we fervently worked to prepare for the worse. The Lord graciously showed us how to streamline our lifestyle and cut back on expenses, as the anticipated layoff did occur. Foremost in our minds, though, was the continual thought that we had intended to work five more years and then retire. Well, retirement came earlier than planned for us.

I found myself asking, “But Lord, I made all these plans. Now what?”

Through the years my mother-in-law often said, “Make your plans but hold them loosely.” How true I have found this, as we need to be flexible enough to change, when God steers us differently. As much as we desire being our own masters, it just doesn’t work that way. Unless, of course, we want to complicate matters.

Our Lord will change our plans so they line up with His plans for us.

When Jesus called his first disciples—Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John—they were fishermen who left everything, including their livelihood and their families, to follow him. Talk about an unexpected change of plans. For the married disciples, I always wonder what their wives were thinking.

These disciples were probably men who thought they had it all figured out, just as my husband and I did. When the Lord had other plans, though, they had to yield. Our emotions were topsy-turvy as I’m sure theirs were also. Some days it felt as if someone was pulling our foundation out from under us, but I confess there were also days when I had a sense of relief. God provided a picture of release from the crazy, corporate world which dictated a lot of travel and where it was always about the bottom line.

From this we trusted God had something different for us. The remainder of our years was to be devoted more to ministry, service, and others. True to the key verse in this devotion, God was indeed determining our steps, even though we had planned a different course in our hearts. We didn’t see it then, but we’re gaining a glimpse of it now.

Our Lord desires His followers to submit and commit our intentions, so He may refine us in accordance with His will. As intimidating as our early venture into retirement was, God gave us direction in showing us where to relocate to, providing some interim part-time jobs, and allowing us both to have fruitful ministries. God is good; He knew all along we were to retire early and what it would look like.

Father God, I’m thankful you look at all the plans I’ve made and you smile. Sometimes you might even laugh. I humbly submit my agenda to you and ask you to direct it and mold it to reflect your will and desire for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

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

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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Don’t Leave Home Without It

One of the most successful advertising campaigns occurred in the 1980’s for American Express. Each ad would feature a prominent person, such as Roger Daltry or Peter Ustinov, but fail to identify them until the end of the commercial when their name appears on an American Express credit card. Upon revelation of the person’s identity, the viewer would hear, “Don’t leave home without it.”

Just as the American Express ad conveys the importance of taking your card everywhere with you, scripture discloses that the Holy Spirit lives in and goes with us. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, NIV) Not only do we need our cell phone, keys, and billfold (yes, containing all those credit cards) when we leave our home, are we taking everything else we need? Did we properly prepare our hearts that day and ask our Heavenly Father to fill us up with His Holy Spirit? I have a real fear of leaving home without it.

The Holy Spirit—Don’t leave home without it.

Upon surrendering our life to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us. The apostle Paul assures us, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 1:13b) This seal of salvation occurs at the time of belief in Jesus Christ. So, as believers we always have the Holy Spirit in us, but are we aware of His presence and are we taking the time to immerse ourselves in Him every day?

There are multiple functions of the Holy Spirit, and Paul continues explaining in verses 18 and 19 of Ephesians 1: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.” (NIV) He prays for the Holy Spirit to open the minds of believers and to empower and strengthen them.

When the Holy Spirit opens the “eyes of our heart,” scripture becomes illuminated. God’s Word convicts us of sin. God’s Word reveals truth to us. When we pray for clarity prior to reading His Word, God unmasks the meaning. The Lord may provide a particular insight as He directs you to read it in context with surrounding scripture and as He points you to other relevant verses.

The Holy Spirit empowers us. When we’re weary from what confronts us, we can call upon the Lord to sustain and enable us. Whether we’re facing decisions concerning our aging parents or a conflict at work or a tension in a friendship, as we draw near to Him, the Holy Spirit will provide the stamina for those times we’re fatigued from the daily struggles.

God’s Holy Spirit will strengthen and lead us. Just as gasoline fuels a car so you can drive it, the Holy Spirit propels you as you live out your day. And, we can rely on the Spirit to caution us not to do anything that goes against scripture. Actions prompted by God will line up with His Word.

Do you desire to have scripture come alive as the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of your heart? Do you desire an inner empowerment only provided by the Holy Spirit? And finally, do you desire strength and guidance through God’s Holy Spirit? Please join me in committing to thanking our Lord each morning for His indwelling Spirit, asking Him to fill you to overflowing, and then, not leaving home without it.

Father God, I need you and I need your Holy Spirit active and present in my life. I ask your Spirit to open my eyes to your Word, to empower me, and to strengthen and guide me. Please fill me to overflowing—I don’t want to leave home without You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 119:18 (AMP): “Open my eyes [to spiritual truth] so that I may behold wonderful things from your law.”

Luke 24:45 (NIV): “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

John 16:13a (NIV): “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.”

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