Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I'll be unplugged this week. Be sure to stop by Monday, April 4th for another life lesson! Have a blessed week enjoying the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 13:5b ...for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (KJV).
Thursday, March 24, 2011
It's time. Time for our Golden Retriever, Precious, to spend a day at the spa. You know - the doggie day spa. Following a long winter, her fur is thick and shaggy and in need of skilled hands to transform her tangles into a soft, sleek coat.
Precious loves an adventure. Her excitement is barely contained when she realizes she's in for a car ride. Nothing gets her more wound up than backing the car out of the garage and lifting the hatch. For Precious, this combination serves as an irresistible invitation to defy the invisible fence and make a flying leap into the car. And surprisingly, for an eighty-something pound retriever, she makes it look easy!
Precious doesn't mind going into the vet's office where the groomer has her business. She doesn't even mind stepping on the scale. In fact, everyone within licking distance is sure to know Precious is there. She truly lives up to the breed's sweet-natured, friendliness. But the tail wagging and cooperation stop there.
I'd have to say Precious merely tolerates the fur trimming and thinning process. She begins to show some annoyance when the groomer begins cleaning her ears. And following her bath, the high-pitched whine of the blow-dryer sends her darting into the nearest corner. But the results are amazing.
Clean, soft fur feels like silk under our fingers. Tangled hair no longer forms mats under her ears. Her newly thinned coat and trimmed leg fringes remind us that she's a Golden, and not a wooly mammoth. The shampoo has left her smelling fresh and her toenails are neatly clipped. What a transformation! And in spite of her objections, Precious is clearly much cooler and more energetic as a result of her new 'do.'
My Heavenly Father periodically schedules trips to the 'spiritual' day spa for me. His goal is for me to be an accurate reflection of Him, and for my life to draw others to Him. At first, my prayer echoes that of the Psalmist David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting," (Psalm 139:23-24; KJV). When His finger rests on an attitude or action that's displeasing to Him, I begin to squirm.
As the Master Gardener, He begins reshaping the areas that need to be changed. Some cuts are made here. A little trimming done there. The process is painful. I protest, hoping it will be over soon. His word reminds me of the truth - pruning helps me bear more fruit. My job is to abide in Him. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing...Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples," (John 15:5,8).
When I cooperate with the Lord in the reshaping process, the results are amazing. I more accurately reflect my Heavenly Father. The transformation has begun. As I grow to understand that my Savior desires truth in the depth of my being, and that He always has my best interests at heart, I can look forward with eager anticipation to another day at the 'spiritual' day spa!
What about you? Is there something the Father has a finger on in your life? Will you allow the Lord to begin the reshaping process?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your patience with me. Help me to identify and eliminate those things You're displeased with in my life. I know transformation is a life-long process. Thank You that You give me the opportunity to bear much fruit for You. Help me be obedient to You in the reshaping process. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Have you ever been sidetracked? Beginning a project with the right intentions, only to find yourself miles off course when you start to evaluate things? I'll be the first one to admit my guilt. As an inspirational/devotional writer, I'm serious about pointing readers to the Lord. Sharing His love and holiness. Yet sometimes, my thought pattern shifts. I'm ashamed to say it, but I get distracted by things that will promote me more than my God.
Satan's deception is subtle. I may still be conveying Bible truths, yet I become more concerned with building my platform than seeing people pointed to the Savior. When I start down the wrong path, my steps begin to slide. Consider what led to Satan's removal from heaven: "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God...I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High," (Isaiah 14:13a, 14; KJV). What arrogance! Yet every time I call the shots and focus on self-promotion, I'm responding just like Satan - focusing on my desires instead of the will of my Heavenly Father.
Being aware of the problem is half the battle. I'm thankful for a God who is slow to become angry and who is extremely merciful. He loves me and is just waiting for me to run back to Him. His Word reveals these truths, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy," (Psalm 103:8). "Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually," (Hosea 12:6).
Having the proper perspective of God, helps keep me on track. The Psalmist's words remind me of His greatness, "Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind," (Psalm 104:1-3). His tender love is revealed by the pen of David," He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him, " (Psalm 103:10-13).
With an awareness of my weakness, and an accurate perception of my Father and His strength, I can return to the job before me with the resolve of John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease, " (John 3:30).
Do you struggle with pride? What helps you put things in proper perspective?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your abundant grace and mercy in my life. Your Word acts as a lifeline - showing me when I've sinned, and clearly guiding me back to You. Help me to love and exalt You in everything I do. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Heavy rains have taken a toll on our creek and pond. The rain isn't really the problem. It's all the debris from upstream that washed into our creek, that has created the problem. Sizeable tree limbs, significant leaf litter, and sand completely clogged the pipes that run under our driveway into the pond. The churning water had no choice but to flow over the driveway. You guessed it. We were left with a mess!
We had a choice to make. Spend several days digging the debris out by hand, or rent a piece of equipment that could complete the job in a matter of hours. Hmmmm. Days of exhausting manual labor, or hours allowing a piece of equipment to do the job for us? Not a difficult decision. We opted to rent a track hoe.
Operating the track hoe still required work, but was far easier than digging the creek out with shovels. There was no comparison between the amount of sand and debris the bucket could handle in one scoop, and what our small shovels could hold. Thank goodness for a piece of equipment designed to do some heavy lifting!
'Heavy rain' affects my spiritual life as well. Difficulties of all shapes and sizes touch me and those around me. Financial struggles, rebellious children, and death can all wreck havoc in our lives. Fortunately, I don't have to muddle through on my own. I have a choice. Instead of doing things in my own strength, as a believer, I can lean on the power of the Lord. He is well-equipped to help me through any situation, doing the 'heavy lifting' for me.
My tendency is to try to fix situations. The result? I end up exhausted. When I follow the Lord's leading and apply His Word to situations, He provides the solutions and I remain energized. The book of Matthew shares the reason, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light," (Matthew 11:29-30; KJV).
He never intended for me to carry the heavy stuff. In fact, He instructs me to cast all my burdens on Him because He cares about me (1 Peter 5:7). When I'm obedient and get in the yoke with Him, He acts as the track hoe doing the hard work. I can't simply sit back and do nothing, but He gives me the easy part. He doesn't require that I fix any problem on my own.
Look at His amazing credentials: "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding," (Isaiah 40:28). He's everlasting, the Creator of it all, has all wisdom, and he never gets tired! Sounds like Someone I can trust with EVERY ONE of my problems!
As I lay my troubles before Him, His Word assures me, "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength," (Isaiah 40:29). As I wait on Him, instead of burning out, my strength is renewed!
How will you deal with your problems? Do you find yourself trying to fix them on your own? Take the Lord up on His offer - allow Him to do the heavy lifting. You'll be amazed with the outcome and your strength will be renewed!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You that I can cast all my cares on You. You know the struggles I face and never intended for me to fix them on my own. Help me to get into the yoke with You, and allow You to do the heavy lifting. I know I can trust You with the outcome. Thank You for Your promise to renew my strength when I'm obedient to do things according to Your plan! In Jesus' name, Amen.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Life is hard. From health problems and relationship issues, to the devastation of earthquakes and tsunamis - the cares of life can seem overwhelming. This past week has been surreal. Matters of deep concern for friends and family have been the topic of many phone conversations and text messages. Only days later, news programs relayed mind-numbing reports that continue to be difficult to grasp. Fear and hopelessness appear poised to take over.
Fear is a crippling enemy, with the ability to rob me of peace. When my mind begins playing the 'what if' game, fear gets in on the action, reminding me that I'm not in control. I can't change circumstances and I can't make decisions for others...soon hopelessness joins the game, unbidden. Fear and hopelessness link arms and if given a foothold, can wreck havoc with my mind. Yet, even in the presence of these foes, there IS hope.
Take a look at the life of Job. Listen in on a conversation between the Lord and Satan. "And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" (Job 1:8; KJV). Job was a good guy. Satan claimed Job was only loyal to God because God had blessed him. Satan asked for permission to destroy all that Job had, reasoning that Job would curse God as a result.
In a matter of 24 hours, Job lost all of his children and all of his oxen, sheep, and camels, in addition to most of his servants. Look at Job's response, "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly," (Job 1:20-22). Amazing!
Satan was permitted to go one step further and afflict Job's health. Job's wife doubted God's goodness and advised him to curse God and die. "But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips," (Job 2:10).
Job wasn't superhuman. Throughout this forty-two chapter book we see Job falsely accused by his friends, and we witness his hope waxing and waning. Before Job sinks into despair, the Lord appears to Job. He doesn't offer answers to the many questions that have tormented Job. Instead, He poses a series of questions to him. Questions that no human being could answer. The point? God's thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Even during difficult times, when nothing makes sense, He is still God, and He is still in control.
Following personal tragedy, Job was able to cling to his hope in God and go on. And God blessed Job abundantly, "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters...After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations." (Job 42:12-13, 16)
Are you experiencing difficulties? Feeling fearful or hopeless? Anchor yourself to the Lord and allow Him to restore your hope!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for being a just, holy, merciful God. I don't always understand why things happen, but it's comforting to know that You are still in control. Comfort all those who are hurting. Forgive me when I give in to fear and hopelessness. Help me to remember Your Word: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost," (Romans 15:13). I praise You today for who You are. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
It's a special day. Nineteen years ago today, we welcomed our girl into the world! Birthday celebrations have always been a big deal around our house. This year will be a bit different. With Riley away at college, it's the first time we won't be together on her big day. But that hasn't stopped us from sending a festive care package her way and wishing her 'Happy Birthday' via text message and Facebook.
Growing up is part of God's plan. He designed us to gradually move from total dependence on our parents, to independence. All the while allowing Him to remain our Authority. Although our physical growth may stop in our late teens, our spiritual growth continues over a lifetime.
Much like we use a guidebook to plan trips; choosing points of interest as well as things we want to avoid, the Bible serves as the ultimate guidebook to navigate life. A guidebook that requires diligent study in order to stay on course. David offers up a beautiful description of the contents, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward," (Psalm 19:7-11).
How exciting to know that the very God of the universe has a purpose and a plan for our daughter's life. It's her job to consult God's guidebook, the Bible, to help determine the course He has for her. As she makes her way through college and encounters life's challenges, our prayer is that her relationship with the Lord will be strengthened. That she will make use of the tools in her arsenal: God's Word, prayer, and faith. That she will take full advantage of the offer made in the book of Hebrews, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," (Hebrews 4:16; KJV). And that she will choose to love the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength.
What about you? Where are you on life's journey? Even if you're completely grown, remember to study God's guidebook daily, allowing Him to be your ultimate Authority!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word that holds clear direction for my life. Help me to study it daily, submitting to Your will one day at a time. My desire is to grow closer to You with each passing year and to love You supremely. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Monday, March 7, 2011
The pace of life can get hectic. It's easy to miss the God-stops along life's journey. You know, the little ways God makes His presence known on a daily basis: the bumper sticker that encourages you to relax because God is in control, or the beautiful sunset that graces the sky in the evening. Time away offers an opportunity to regroup and evaluate what's really important. A chance to draw near to the Creator of the universe.
God's creation serves as a constant reminder of His presence. Visiting some of Hawaii's most beautiful beaches was no exception. From the glorious color of the water, to the sound of the waves lapping at the shoreline, I was reminded of the greatness of God, "The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land, " (Psalm 95:5; KJV). The book of Proverbs mentions God's wisdom when He created the oceans, "When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I (wisdom)was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him," (Proverbs 8:29-30; word in italics mine).
Taking in the beauty of the ocean from the sandy beach was proof enough of a mighty God. The life contained within the ocean was the icing on the cake. Donning our snorkel gear, we waded in to the salt water. A whole different world awaited us. Crystal clear water made it easy to see brightly colored fish of all shapes and sizes. Gliding slowly through the water gave us the chance to spot several sea creatures we would have missed had we been in a hurry.
Snowflake eels, green sea turtles, yellow tangs, and numerous types of parrot fish all welcomed us to their underwater world. I was struck by the beauty of the coral that offered both protection and food for the creatures we encountered. I was gripped by the thought that a person could be swimming in the same water I was, yet be oblivious to this amazing sea life because they didn't have snorkel gear.
Oftentimes I'm like the swimmer without snorkel gear. Enjoying only a portion of the blessings God has for me. Instead of continuing to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Apostle Peter instructs, I become satisfied with where I am, and begin missing the nuggets of truth meant for my growth.
Following salvation, God's will for me is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Something that happens over a lifetime. As I consciously allow God to direct the pace of my life, I'm more acutely aware of His presence on a daily basis. Growth requires effort. But the effort is well worth it, when it results in developing a close relationship to the Creator of the universe!
Are you so busy that you've missed the God-stops along life's journey? Will you take the time to seek God's presence on a daily basis? Be mindful of the nuggets of truth the Lord has for you and draw near to Him today!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your daily presence. Forgive me when I take it for granted. Your creation points clearly to You and it's exciting to know that I can have a close relationship with the God who created it all! Help me to constantly seek the nuggets of truth that will help me to grow in grace and in the knowledge of You, so I can be all that You created me to be. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
I had been forewarned, but it was still shocking. The landscape could only be described as desolate and barren. Something that vaguely resembled pictures I'd seen of the moon. Vast, blackened lava fields stretched for miles in every direction. In sharp contrast, the beauty of the ocean reminded me that this really was Hawaii.
From the moment we stepped off the plane, I was aware of the fact that the same God who created the mainland, had created this island with its diverse landscape. A truly unique place, the Big Island boasts varied weather and vegetation depending on your location. Sunshine is plentiful on the west side of the island, with only 10 inches of rainfall a year. Compare that to the 140 inches of rainfall on the east side of the island, and you've just discovered the reason for the huge contrast in landscape!
The lava fields were unlike anything we'd seen before. With a strange beauty all its own, the hardened lava flow reminded me of the leathery hide of an elephant, or the growth rings of an ancient tree. After navigating a portion of unpaved road, simply referred to as 'Nasty' Road by our guide book, we had a deep appreciation for all the work that goes into developing this land and making it habitable.
The landscape wasn't the only thing that stood in sharp contrast to our state of Georgia, the wildlife also served as a constant reminder. From beautiful birds, to ocean animals, the photo opportunities were incredible. Colorful sea creatures and adorable geckos pointed to a Master Designer with limitless creativity.
The same is true of humankind. Each of us is created by that same Master Designer. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them," (Genesis 1:26-27; KJV).
Each one of us is unique. Created for a purpose. The words of the Apostle John verify that purpose, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are created," (Revelation 4:11). When we use the talents and abilities God has given to us to draw attention to Him, we fulfill our purpose.
It's common to desire someone else's ability. But God gifted each one of us a bit differently for a reason. The Apostle Paul spells it out, "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him," (1 Corinthians 12:14-18).
God's creation is diverse. Rejoice in the way He created you, using your talents and abilities to make much of Him!
Are you satisfied with who God created you to be? Will you use your gifts to magnify Him today?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You today, for the awesome Creator You are! Thank You for the beauty and diversity of your creation. I'm thankful for the way You created me. Forgive me when I desire to have someone else's abilities. Help me to use the unique gifts You've given me, to bring You honor and glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.