Monday, December 30, 2013

The Women of Christmas: Anna


[Photo of Anna]

 “Coming up to them at that very moment,
[Anna] gave thanks to God and spoke
about the child to all who were looking
forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
 —Luke 2:38

The Bible only mentions her once, but the memory of her lives through the ages. Dr. Luke says Anna was a Prophetess. But, some have said she may not have foretold the future like Simeon did at the same meeting with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus—they had come to Jerusalem, to the temple, to fulfill the requirements of the law to present Jesus to the Lord with an offering for sacrifice.

Anna, whether she foretold the future or not, certainly knew her way around the temple and the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Luke speaks of her love for the place where the Holy of Holies resided and where pilgrims from all over Israel came several times a year for the Jewish festivals. He tells that this octogenarian never left the temple but worshiped day and night.

Anna must have enjoyed special favors from the priests in order to live within the temple walls along with other temple servants. No doubt she had plenty to share about her knowledge of the sacred texts.

Of one thing I am fully persuaded. Anna not only knew the text of Psalm 122, she actually lived it!

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
4 That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the Lord—
to praise the name of the Lord
according to the statute given to Israel.
5 There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

Anna watched the tribes “go up” to Jerusalem, year after year. Perhaps on former journeys, Mary and Joseph had even seen this old woman in the temple.

She rejoiced over this Holy City, praised God for it, and prayed for its peace, just as the Psalmist instructs.

Anna saw Jesus as the Hope for her city, her temple, her people, and her world. She had given her life in devotion to that Hope. She spent it there in the temple serving the Lord.

I suppose the nuns of the Roman Catholic church could be likened to Anna in their life-long devotion to service. But, I’m thinking that Protestant women, too, can dedicate themselves to the Lord in service to their church in this modern age.

I challenge myself and you, my Christian sisters, to make a vow like Anna before God that, in the new year of 2014, we will dedicate ourselves to the study of the Scriptures, to prayer, and to the work of God through the church.

God expects us, as serious disciples, to give more than a single hour of time in worship each week. He wants us, as much as it is possible, to give our lives, like He did, to the work of His Kingdom through the church.

We should love Him and His church. We should serve Christ’s church with a heart like Anna’s—even to our eighty-fourth year!



Monday, December 23, 2013

In the Darkness, Light!


[Photo of the sun rising over the dark mountains]

 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
 —Isaiah 9:2

The dresser’s edge just seemed to appear out of nowhere and my toe felt it! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

You’ve probably experienced the same surprise in the dark. Even with our eyes “adjusted” for the darkness, objects emerge we forgot were there. Yet, this verse speaks of people walking in darkness, and others who live in the land of the shadow of death. Seemingly, they have never truly seen illumination, and they walk with the handicap of blindness.

Speaking of “walking in darkness,” some creatures can effectively see in the dark:

“…nocturnal animals, masters at this, have sacrificed visual acuity in order to hunt at night. They must get by with somewhat fuzzy, unfocused images. Only by greatly exaggerating the size of their eyes (and therefore the retinal image), can dark-adapted animals develop reasonable resolution to their images. They see mostly crude shapes, outlines and no color, but it is enough for them to hunt, feed and survive in the dark of night.” 1

I think people become so comfortable in the darkness, too, that they learn to modify their lives to accommodate it. Their lives have a fuzzy, unfocused image of what God wants for them. They may be able to feed and survive, but they walk about seeing mostly crude shapes with no color. This kind of darkness has become normal for them.

When the Lord spoke to Isaiah almost 700 years before the birth of Christ, He saw His people in this condition. He foretold the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, and in so doing Isaiah gave the answer to the blinded condition of the sinful people of Earth. When Jesus came, His Light dawned on anyone who wanted new eyes to see.

Since the first sin in the Garden of Eden, this darkness has fallen on us all. And now, as individuals who stumble around with vulnerable spiritual toes, we can turn from darknes and receive the Light of the World in our lives to turn on the clarity we need to walk well, see the colorful insights God wants to give us, and to reflect His Light for others.

Do you know a situation so dark that nothing can illuminate it, or a heart that seems dark and hopeless? Go toward the Light of the World. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and bask in the Light He gives—through His Word, through His church, through His people. Rejoice this Christmas in the gift of Light given in the Babe of the manger.


1 from an on-line article courtesy of BioMEDIA ASSOCIATES, LLC: “How Do Animals See in the Dark?” by Molly Kirk and David Denning. Copyright © All Rights Reserved.



Monday, December 16, 2013

The Royals


[Photo of Kate and Prince George at his christening]

 “ Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world …
my kingdom is from another place.’”
 —John 18:36

It doesn’t take much time searching on the internet to find all kinds of details about the new Prince George and his royal family. The tabloids and British magazines have written about every detail they can of this new future king of England. Here are a few I spotted in a quick look:

  • “Who does little George resemble?”

  • “Prince George’s playmates…”

About the christening you can find:

  • An interview with the royal cakebaker…

  • The gift of a rugby shirt for the little tyke…

  • George’s christening dress: a replica of an 1841 outfit worn by Queen Victoria’s oldest daughter…

…and much more. Attention has been on the parents, too:

  • “Kate spotted shopping at…”

  • “See pictures of Prince William and Kate as kids.”

  • “Kate accessorized with her citrine drop Kiki earrings.”

But what of a Baby born so many years ago as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? The parents, Joseph and Mary, blended in with the other peasants in the town of Bethlehem to register for the census. Their poverty showed in Mary’s homespun gown and in Joseph’s road-weary donkey. Can you imagine a royal couple in these 21st century days having to beg for a place to hide out of the weather so that their baby could be born?

What a stark difference between the values of a modern kingdom gone mad for glitz and glamour and a kingdom which—as Scripture states in John 18:36—is “not of this world.” Yet, we as citizens of this Kingdom should remember our King and pay Him allegiance as our Sovereign. We should remember that God’s ways are not man’s ways.

The appearance of angels, the message to poor shepherds, the Magi’s long trip to see the One foretold by their study of the stars, and the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus certainly were “not of this world” either. And, as a King, Jesus requires our loyalty and our homage. Not only should we bow before Him, we should give our lives in obedience to Him.

Consider the text of an old liturgy from the 5th century:

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of Lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
his own self for heav’nly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
‘Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Lord Most High!’”



Monday, December 9, 2013

The Women of Christmas: Mary


[Photo of old postcards and a magnifying glass]

 “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”
 —Luke 1:46 (KJV)

Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-55, offers us something worthy to study during Advent. What beautiful language from a young girl in the midst of a startling and newly revealed sacred responsibility—to give birth to the Messiah.

The first sentence captures my imagination. I love to read it from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, as stated at the beginning of the blog post.

Other translations use the words, “glorify” or “exalt,” but for me, the word “Magnify” has a richer image. Even the Latin “Magnificat” comes from the same root word.

We think of magnifying glasses for people who have lost the ability to see small print. They need to magnify the text to understand it. We know that students often use magnifying glasses when they observe tiny animals or plants to better see the details.

To magnify something makes it appear bigger, brings it closer, allows us to know things we might miss otherwise. How did Mary magnify the Lord? She went on to praise Him and worship Him for doing wonderful things.

This wonderful Song of Mary includes fifteen quotes from the Old Testament in which other believers magnified the Lord before her. They expounded on the blessings He had given, the merits of His grace, the wonder of His working. In doing so, they witnessed to others the greatness of their God, and ours.

Several other passages in Scripture speak of magnifying the Lord. Again in the King James Version—Psalm 34:3:

“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

And, speaking of the miracles that God performed through the Apostle Paul as recorded in Acts 19:17:

“Fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

As believers, our lives either magnify Him or diminish Him. How can we magnify our Lord and bring others to the place where they will take a closer look at Him?

When others watch our lives, do they see Him in a clearer way? When we gather to exalt Him in worship, do we make Him more understandable, more attractive, more able for others to long for His Presence in their lives?

I pray that the Lord will show all of us during this Advent and Christmas season how we can magnify His goodness, His power, His works, His holiness, His mercy, His grace, and His love.

May those around us see Him through our lives and desire to take another look at Him!



Monday, December 2, 2013

The Women of Christmas: Elizabeth


[Photo of Elizabeth]

 “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown
his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’”
 —Luke 1:25

Elizabeth often gets overlooked in the Christmas story. In fact, she had probably been overlooked all her adult life. Though the Bible says that she and her husband, Zechariah, were “upright people, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly,” people must have always wondered what she might have done to deserve a punishment like barrenness. She may have wondered the same thing herself.

In the Luke account, Elizabeth was “well along in years.” In our time, she might have been considered middle-aged—in her 40’s or 50’s—but well past her child-bearing years.

During a “once in a lifetime” duty as priest a few weeks before, an angel had come to Zechariah and had promised a child would be born to him and Elizabeth. Though the angel did not even come to her, she soon knew that the message the angel had brought was true.

It was during the days that followed, in the early months of the pregnancy that she became fully aware that the Lord was blessing her with a child.

Elizabeth and Zechariah must have been overjoyed. No longer would they carry the burden of childlessness. Not only that, the angel had promised that their baby would be filled with the Holy Spirit for a special duty, as recorded in Luke 1:17:

“…to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Yet, Elizabeth must have had to grow in her faith and her trust in God during this strange and fearful period. She needed to trust what her husband shared with her, and have confidence in her God, though she didn’t understand His ways.

Then one day, Elizabeth received a visit from her relative, Mary. Mary had questions and fears even greater than those of Elizabeth. She too was pregnant, had been visited by an angel, and promised a son. As Luke 1:42 records, when Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s body moved in her womb, which caused Elizabeth to proclaim loudly:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”

How wonderful for Mary and Elizabeth that God had uniquely scheduled these pregnancies of two women connected by family and during the same period of time. How they must have rejoiced, and prayed, and wondered about what God was doing with them and through them for His purposes.

I surmise that Mary must have returned home a different person. She left as a frightened and unsure teenager, and came home a blessed and trusting young woman. God had used Elizabeth in her life. And, the mutual encounter had been by divine appointment.

Consider how God wants to use you in another woman’s life. Has He strategically placed you together with someone He wants to bless? Perhaps He has placed you with someone in unusual, but similar, circumstances?

Look beyond your own age group. Rejoice that God engineers such encounters for you. He is the same God who arranged the blessing and strengthening of two of His choice servants. He can do the same for you!



Monday, November 25, 2013

The Key


[Photo of the gate to the chancel of a cathedral]

 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.”
 —Psalm 100:4

So many times in Scripture, especially in the Psalms, we are encouraged to “Give thanks to the Lord.” The Psalms also persuade us to “Praise the Lord” and to “Worship the Lord.”

To me, praise and worship stem from a mindset that understands to Whom we belong and also understands His greatness and power. We worship because God is worthy of our worship. And, we praise Him for His attributes and those universal benefits we receive from His magnificent grace and power.

To give thanks, however, brings praise to a personal level. In fact, I would like to assert that we open the door to God’s presence with thanksgiving. Has your heart ever felt cold and indifferent when you came to God in prayer? Certainly none of us can claim that we always come to God with the totality of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, even though He requires that of us.

May I suggest that, when you feel distant from your Lord, you consider beginning your prayer time with a round of thanksgiving. It doesn’t take long before our hearts engage more fully when we think how personally God has intervened in our lives, even during times when we wait and wonder at the way He leads us.

This idea has come to me through two passages of scripture. The first comes from Romans 1:21-32. Here the writer describes the wrath of God against wickedness, and the steps to the decline of evil in a person. The very first step downward in this list of sins is a lack of thanksgiving. Romans 1:21:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him.”

As you read the rest of the first chapter o Romans, you recognize with me that the sin only gets darker and deeper. One commentator uses the phrase: “…sin begets sin.” New sin heaps itself on existing sin.

You can find the other passage in which I read this kind of progression in Psalm 106. Here we find a record of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Interestingly enough, the Psalm begins with the admonition, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” When the psalmist recounts the history of the Jewish nation and recalls their sin, the very first thing the psalmist writes states in Psalm 106:7:

“When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles, they did not remember your many kindnesses.”

From there on, the list includes: rebellion, discontent, jealousy, idolatry, unbelief, apostasy, insurrection, and accommodation to the culture around them. This represents quite a list of terrible sins. But, please take note that not remembering the Lord and His goodness with thanksgiving first started them down the wrong path.

During this Thanksgiving week, I invite you to rediscover with me the wonderful way in which giving thanks provides the key that opens the gate, allows us to come into the very presence of our Lord, and allows us to experience anew His sweet Spirit.



Monday, November 18, 2013

Here Comes the Bride


[Photo of a woman and man opening a door]

 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
   For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
   and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
   and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
   was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
 —Revelation 19:6-9

Recently I received a thank-you note from a young bride for whose wedding I played the organ. She commented that everyone kept saying what a dramatic entrance she had made at the wedding. I did nothing out of the ordinary for her, because I always prepare the bridal professional with a fanfare and loud flourishes.

Her note has me thinking about the great Wedding of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation 19:6-9, which I quoted at the beginning of this blog post.

Many times in Scripture, the Bride is regarded as the church prepared for her groom, Christ Himself. Such a fuss over the bride! It would seem that with Christ as the groom, the focus should be on Him. Yet here Scripture says that she has made herself ready in fine linen, bright and clean. Nothing is spoken of the Groom.

Psalm 45 is a wedding song. In verse 15, the bride is described as wearing gold and embroidered garments. She and her companions are:

“…led in with joy and gladness; they enter the palace of the king.”

Isaiah refers to the Bride in Isaiah 62:5:

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

Something of the symbolism of Christ and His church has been lost in modern wedding ceremonies. In fact, like in the wedding ceremony I referred to earlier, there was neither prayer nor mention of Christ. No wonder this young bride was a bit surprised at her role in the wedding drama. Oh yes, the money and time and dreaming that young girls spend on that perfect dress still exists, but the real meaning of such a dress has been lost.

Recently I read of the Greek Orthodox tradition of crowns in their wedding ceremony. One of the elements of the service involves “crowning” in which the bride and groom receive crowns united by ribbon, representing their union in Christ. The priest says “Crown them with Glory and Honor.” The crowns also symbolize the heavenly crowns we receive when we enter paradise. They are a reminder that marriage involves “dying of self” in the same way that we die to self so that Christ can live in us. After the marriage ceremony, the crowns are typically displayed in a case above the bed as a constant reminder of the holy state of marriage.

The Apostle Paul also speaks of this symbolism in his letter found in Ephesians 5:25-28:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.”

Yes, Christ has chosen to put the emphasis on the Bride. He chose her, bought her with His own blood, brought her to a relationship with Himself, and waits to present her to the Heavenly Hosts and all creation.

I wonder what the music will sound like when we are presented to Him in the Heavenly Kingdom? Will it be dramatic? I would imagine it will!!



Monday, November 11, 2013



[Photo of a woman praying over her Bible]

 I reach out for you.
I thirst for you as parched land
thirsts for rain. Selah.
 —Psalm 143:6 NLT

How many times have I skipped over this little word “Selah” when reading the Scriptures! Yes, I rushed right by it without thinking. This word has caused many Christians to scratch their heads and just move on to more understandable English text.

The word, “Selah” is Hebrew, and translates best as “interlude” or “Pause and think about that!” Well, I guess we do just the opposite of its purpose when we rush right past the word in our reading.

The interlude, in music, creates a space between other things, like acts in an opera. In church music, the interlude gives worshipers the opportunity to pray and settle their thinking between other elements of a worship service. I like to think of it as the instrumental music between sung hymns or anthems.

“Selah” occurs seventy-one times in the Psalms and three times in the book of Habakkuk, another poetically composed book.

So, what should we consider about giving heed to this little word?

Of course, when we encounter a “Selah,” we should first pause in our reading and meditate on the passage before it, just as the text instructs.

But, even more importantly, I think we need to create “Selah moments” now and then in our busy lives. A daily “Selah”—and here I’m taking freedom and using the word as a noun—happens when we carve out time to meditate on God’s Word. Some have found value in a once-a-year retreat alone where she can spend the entire time focusing on God to nourish the soul.

My personal “Selahs” occur on New Year’s Day, birthdays, after big life events, like a death of a friend or relative. I purposefully allow extra time to consider what God is saying about this new page of life.

I think we bring pleasure to God when we take the time to be thankful, or to turn over a new leaf, or to listen to Him instead of hurrying before Him and making requests.

In this noisy, busy, non-stop world, I urge you to find a quiet place and enjoy the “Selah” moments. What a beautiful way to grow in our understanding and appreciation of all that God is and wants of us!



Monday, November 4, 2013

On the Road Again


[Photo of a woman hiking]

 “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promised. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
 —Hebrews 11:9-10

I admire Abraham. Nowhere does Scripture say that HE decided to leave Haran in Mesopotamia for a new place to live. He didn’t decide to “retire” to a Mediterranean villa where he could put his feet up and enjoy his old age.

Scripture does tell us in Genesis 12, that God called him and told him to leave his country, his people and his family and go to a land God would reveal. He was seventy-five years old, established in Haran with a large accumulation of possessions.

I admire Abraham. From the day he left Haran, he never had a permanent home again. The scripture says, “He lived in tents.” I don’t know about you, but the older I’ve become, the more I want my “creature comforts.” Starting over, traveling in less than ideal conditions, living in a tent, just don’t appeal to me anymore.

Somewhere in the last year or two, in response to my church situation, I formed the phrase, “Ever on the road—never home.”

We all crave stability and the comfort of home. We resemble the restless swallow of Psalm 84 that flits around looking for a place to have her young and often discovers that place near the altar of God’s house.

Yes, I admire Abraham. He obeyed God and set out in faith, not knowing where he was going. He did not have the provision of the Scriptures we have, the richness of the Psalms to encourage him, the stories of other heroes of faith we see in Hebrews 11. God commended him for good reason.

I, too, need to follow in faith, when I don’t know where I’m going or how long the journey will be, regardless of my age. Moses, probably also an old man, penned Psalm 90 which begins:

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.”

He, too, knew an old age full of wandering and trusting God.

The Apostle Peter knew what it meant to feel “Ever on the road—never home.” In his first letter, he referred to Christians in 1 Peter 2:11 as:

“…aliens and strangers in the world.”

Similarly, the old gospel song states:

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue,”

Even if we have a sense of home and stability in our lives, we must remember that God never meant us to completely settle here. We can rejoice that He has given us a real home and that some day, we will all come to “a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

On that great day, we’ll never be “on the road again”!



Monday, October 28, 2013

My Suitable Portion


[Photo of a large food buffet]

 “ My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the
strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
 —Psalm 73:26
 “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him.’”
 —Lamentations 3:24

I may lose, and lose, and lose—people, place, position, possessions, but not my portion. We tend to take our comfort, our joy, our stability, our sense of well-being and balance from these things.

Back in 1967, a study called the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory identified the top ten stressors they found. The list included:

  • death of spouse

  • divorce

  • separation

  • jail

  • death of close relative

  • injury or illness

  • marriage

  • being fired from job

  • marriage reconciliation

  • retirement.

Personally, I would add “moving to a new city.” And, from the experience of many Christians, I would add “strife within the church.”

The human race has never been without stress. Can you imagine how stressed Adam and Eve must have been when God sent them from Eden, their home, into a “big, bad world” they had never known, with sin and death and pain? Stress and loss pretty much sum up the human condition under the rule of sin.

The psalm which inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” speaks the following from Psalm 46:1-3:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Sometimes we feel like the “earth is giving way.” Everything we have relied on, or that helped our sense of stability can be taken from us. Why does God allow this to happen? I would purport God uses such losses to drive us to Him alone. He wants to be our portion; that which we feed upon, that which gives us nourishment and delights us.

In the 17th century, Puritan writer Thomas Brooks wrote:

“Our God is a suitable portion. No object is as suitable to the heart as he is. He is a portion that is exactly suited to the condition of the soul in its desires, needs, wants, longings and prayers.” 1

Think how awesome the banquet of God’s love and provision. He who fed the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years on manna can feed us with everything we need. Yes, the manna gave these people a temporary provision while they waited to taste the full bounty of the Promised Land, but he gave them enough as recorded in Exodus 16:12:

“You will be filled with bread.”

The Apostle Paul writes of contentment in Philippians 4:12b:

“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.”

From this we see our need to learn contentment and rejoice in the portion God gives us.

Whether your portion today is a wafer of manna or a feast of the finest foods, praise God that HE is your portion and HE is enough.


1 Thomas Brooks, Works, 11:27-28 as quoted in Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing.



Monday, October 21, 2013

“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”


[Photo of women praying]

Even if you’re a non-smoker like I am, if you grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s, you will likely remember this slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes—all too clever marketing targeted at women. This age of the female gender gaining equality with men, women’s rights, and the sexual revolution brought with it these symbols of what the world regarded as “elegant” or “sophisticated.” Any “modern” woman aspired to look like the cultural images portrayed in such advertising.

This phrase came to mind last summer when I spent an evening with my graduating class for our 50th high school reunion. Such an event is a rather “normalizing” occasion in which all present meld again into just “Ann, the girl whose father died when we were in the third grade,” or “Jim, the farm boy with red hair and freckles.” It seems almost impossible to put into dinner conversation a full explanation of how far we’ve come as adults along the road of life since those days. We have just come way too far.

We can see how far we’ve come in a much more beneficial way by examining our spiritual growth. We look back at commitments we made to Christ as teenagers and the “young love” we experienced toward Him then, as compared to the mature walk of faith we strive for now. Or, we look back to see how drastically different we lived without Christ in our youth to our days of walking with Him faithfully now.

If you journal your faith life, you can benefit from looking back into your old volumes and see how far you’ve come. God wants us to grow. He wants mature servants. He works His grace in us in all its various forms and wants us to join Him in working that grace out in our lives.

I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents in which a wealthy landowner called in his servants and entrusted his property to them in the form of talents. He expected them to invest and grow the trust He had given them. He rewarded those who put the talents to work, and threw the servants out as “worthless” who only buried their talent.

At the end of our lives, He wants to speak to us the words from Matthew 25:23:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Sophistication, an elegant look, a culturally acceptable persona do not come close by comparison. But, if we’ve walked faithfully with Christ, we can still say “You’ve come a long way, Baby!”



Monday, October 14, 2013



[Photo of a boy with a basket of fresh-picked apples]

 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
 —2 Corinthians 9:6, 8

During my teaching career, I loved those crisp fall days when the kindergarten children would walk out to their buses with bulging backpacks full of fruit they had picked on their field trip to the apple orchard. They proudly exhibited how much weight they could carry, expressed with groans of heavy toil as they walked.

Todd beamed, too. But instead of keeping his apples hidden, he carried them in his hands and offered them to staff members as he made his way down the hall.

“Hey, look what I picked! Would you like one?” he asked as he walked toward me.

I accepted his proffered gift and thought about Todd and his sister. These children obviously lacked in ordinary material possessions. The clothing they wore betrayed their poverty. Yet here he came, the poorest of the lot, giving out his apples right and left.

Was it possible that Todd at age five had already discovered the joy of giving? Perhaps this rare occasion, when he had something tangible to give away, provided those of us observing him a glimpse at his generous heart.

It pleases God if we give cheerfully like that. Sometimes we give because we feel others expect us to give. Sometimes we give because someone has actually asked for a donation.

What can God teach us today about giving?

Do you have something which you could give away to bring pleasure to another? Do you have something God wants you to give in a cheerful and abandoned manner?

Ask God to share with you His perspective on giving. Search His Word for what He has to say about giving. Take note of the verses that opened this blog post.

If you follow His instruction regarding giving, in your obedience you will surely reap a generous harvest!



Monday, October 7, 2013

The Voice


[Photo of a woman listening]

Maybe you’ve seen the popular musical television contest called “The Voice,” which begins with a blind audition. The four judges face the audience and listen to the artists sing. If they believe they would like to act as a coach for a particular artist they hear, the judge turns toward the artist and his or her chair lights up with the words, “I Want You.”

What a wonderful thing—to hear the voice of someone you respect giving you that kind of message. My analogy breaks down here, because instead of writing this devotional about our voice, I want to focus this devotional on the voice of our God. We want to hear His voice speak clearly to us. And, when we do, we know He has said to us, “I want you!”

In the well-known passage, John 10:27, Jesus says:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”

In another passage found in Isaiah 30:21, the prophet Isaiah gives this instruction to the people of Israel:

“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.’”

But, “What does God’s voice sound like?” you ask.

Like us, God uses His voice differently to fit the circumstances. Psalm 29:3 says:

“The God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.”

Yet, in 1 Kings 19:12, we read that:

“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

Like earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father uses His voice in ways appropriate for each situation to assure that He will be heard. When we need a swift warning of danger, we hear the tone of voice that will get our attention. When we need the comfort of His nearness, we hear the “still small voice.”

Do you know the voice of the Father? God wants us to recognize Him just as we do when our earthly father calls on the phone and we instantly know His expression and intonation.

God purposefully desires our fellowship. He does say, “I want you.” Just as He requested a response in Scripture, He requests a response from you and from me.

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.”

This is the very best news spoken by the very best Voice that we could receive!



Monday, September 30, 2013

Look Up!


[Photo of a woman looking up at the sky]

 “O, Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens…what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You made them a little lower than the angels and covered them with glory and honor.”
 —Psalm 8:1, 4-5

In his excellent three-volume commentary on the Psalms, Dr. James Montgomery Boice offers some interesting thoughts on Psalm 8. He notes that Thomas Aquinas was one of the first to write that this psalm places man halfway between earth and heaven. Aquinas observed that angels have spirits without bodies and animals have bodies without spirits. Man, because he has both a spirit and a body stands between them.

Why did God say that we are a “little lower than the angels?” He could just as truthfully said that man is a little higher than the animals. However, because man was created by God in His own image, He shows the desire of His heart that we become increasingly like Him rather than increasingly like the beasts.

To quote Dr. Boice:

“But here is the sad thing. Although made in God’s image and ordained to become increasingly like the God to whom they look, men and women have turned their backs on God. And since they will not look upward to God, which is their privilege and duty, they actually look downward to the beasts and so become increasingly like them.”

Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, whose story we read about in the book of Daniel, was driven to the wilderness to live with the wild animals because he refused to give God the glory for creating all that the king claimed to own. In this downtrodden state, he recognized Daniel’s God and finally was given sight to proclaim His glory.

The Westminster Catechism affirms the reality of our true calling when it states that the chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Our society has lost its way in this regard. Evolution has become the logical “wisdom” of our generation. When we eliminate God from our thinking, we have to formulate an explanation for our being. Thus, we invent evolution. In this theory, we are only slightly an advanced version of the beasts. Once we see ourselves as only “better beasts,” we begin to mirror our behavior on those from whom we originate and become more and more like them.

But, God has made a solution for our willful rebellion. As stated in Philippians 2:8-11, God the Father sent Jesus, made a little lower than the angels himself…

“…who humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

We truly do become like what we gaze at. Looking down, we see our beginnings with the earthly beasts. We subject ourselves to the animalistic behaviors we see there. Looking up, we see the God who made us in His image, who came to us in human form through His Son, and who wants to make us increasingly like Himself until we see Him face to face!

We should praise Him every day for considering our low estate and desiring to raise us up to carry His image with the dignity that He gave us when He stamped His very own image upon us.



Monday, September 23, 2013

The Legacy


[Photo of a young girl playing the violin]

 “ We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget
his deeds but would keep his commands.”
 — Psalm 78:4b-7

If we could just see backwards to the way in which God prepared to have us learn of Him and the gospel message, we would be astonished.

Did a great-great-grandmother teach her children well? And, did one of them—the one who became your grandfather—so fall in love with Christ that children many generations later would proclaim His grace? (Yes! That’s exactly what happened in my family!)

Did a long ago professor plant a seed of Truth that would resonate for many decades in the life of someone who later took steps to influence you?

We just won’t know the beautiful strand of embroidery that God has used to bring us to Himself until some glorious day we stand before Him.

On the other hand, do WE give ourselves to God so He can plant the seed of the gospel in those in the next generations? We may never see the full impact our lives have on younger people whom we have only met for a brief period. Likewise, we may not yet clearly see the impact our lives have had on those we have raised in our own homes who will carry the message of God’s grace onward.

Television writer and author David C. McCasland tells about meeting a member of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Luis Antonio Rojas, who told him that:

“…the finest instruments are made of wood that has been allowed to age naturally to remove the moisture. You must age the wood for 80 years, then play the instrument for 80 years before it reaches its best sound … a craftsman must use wood cut and aged by someone else, and he will never see any instrument reach its peak during his own lifetime.” 1

Perhaps you have poured yourself into children or young people, but see little to indicate that you have made an impact. Remember this story. God takes time to work His will into His children.

Be faithful! Continue to take every opportunity to live for Christ and share His story with those in the next generation, and the next. We will all be amazed when we meet in Heaven to see those who came before us who had been faithful, and those who will come after us who are there because of our faithful witness.


1 Quoted in Our Daily Bread: Devotional Journal, ©2010, RBC Ministries.



Monday, September 16, 2013

Pass It On


[Photo of children sitting in a circle]

In most any culture in the world, children learn games of passing. They sit in a circle, and either pass a certain hand motion, a “secret,” or an object. Sometimes the game requires the children to pass a rock or a ball to the steady beat of a song. Sometimes passing a word is imperative in a certain amount of time, or to some other rule of the game.

God has given us a rule of the “game” through the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

God expects us to pass on the comfort, the lessons learned when we suffered, to those who presently suffer. He does not waste our troubles. God not only has a reason in our lives for the suffering He allows, but also in the lives of others.

Most of us know of someone whose parent died at a young age of an incurable disease, or suffered throughout a lifetime with an untreatable condition. This son or daughter chose a field of study for their life’s work in order to bring a cure for the disease.

Others volunteer in a social service organization that serves people with a terrible habit with which they themselves have struggled.

Why does this happen? Because we become aware of the needs and feelings of others going through similar trials we have suffered.

God changes our vision when we suffer. Just as Jesus suffered, and now gives us His comfort, we can offer comfort to those He is taking through trials for which they are ill equipped. Once they have learned the lesson of the suffering, God will expect them to pass on the comforts they have received.

Ask God today what person or persons need a word or a helping hand which includes the comfort which you received when you learned some hard lessons. Ask Him to give you an awareness of ministry right where you live today. Pass on the encouragement and comfort!

The third verse of an old gospel song1, sums it up:

Give as ’twas given to you in your need,
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed,
Unto your mission be true.

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.


1 From Make Me a Blessing. Words by Ira Wilson. ©1952



Monday, September 9, 2013

Appropriate Luggage


[Photo of a young woman getting her luggage at an airport]

 “But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”
 —2 Corinthians 10:12 RSV

Christian speaker and artist, Joni Eareckson Tada, in her devotional book, Pearls of Great Price, recounts a thought she had while traveling:

I have been at countless airport carousels, watching as bags innumerable drop from the chute. Some of those pieces are very nice. Smart leather trim. Clean. New. In my daydreams I wonder what would happen if I swapped my old, scuffed-up luggage for one of those fancy pieces? I wouldn’t of course, But if I did, what might I find inside? Elegant clothes that don’t fit. Shoes I don’t like. Makeup that doesn’t match my skin tone. Jewelry that’s clunky and overdone. And what might I lose in this hypothetical deal? I’d lose my speaking notes, my favorite dress jeans, and treasured personal jewelry. I would lose the devotional book I love to read in the morning. In fact, while the bag I took might look better on the outside, it’s a no-brainer that the stuff on the inside wouldn’t be a good fit at all.

It’s easy to look at others and wish we could be like them; to have their talent, or their trim figure, or their jewelry collection, etc. And sometimes, all this comparison leads to sin in the form of covetousness.

God has given each of us our own perfect case in which to live our lives. If He has made us to be a stay-at-home mom, He may not have given us the ability to speak in public. If He has made us to speak in public, He may not have given us children. God planned the whole package when He created us.

Learn to see yourself as God sees you—a perfect blend of everything He needs. Even those things we consider weaknesses, He can use for His glory. Instead of looking longingly on what He has given others, we need to say with David, the psalmist, in Psalm 139:14, 16 NIV:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Look in the mirror today, and thank God for all He has given you, and pledge to Him that you will willingly use all your gifts in service to Him! What a joy!



Monday, September 2, 2013

The Eager Student


[Photo of  children raising their hands]

I love the Psalms. This morning I studied Psalm 25 with the help of a commentary by longtime Presbyterian pastor, Dr. James Montgomery Boice. He calls this psalm a Schoolbook Lesson for Living to Please God. Having started school either as a student or teacher for 48 years (!), I get excited thinking about learning in the classroom.

We see in this psalm a perfect Teacher and a good learner. Psalm 25:4-5 states:

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

First of all, a good teacher, like the Master Teacher, “shows,” “teaches,” and “guides.” Not all students learn the same way, and many subjects need various approaches. In a corresponding Psalm to this one, we read from Psalm 119:33-37:

Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statues
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

Any teacher can tell you that learning takes two—the good teacher and the good student. If we turn back to the portion of Scripture in Psalm 25:9-10, we read:

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

Obedient and humble students learn and find joy in doing so. They also bring joy to the heart of their teacher. In another Psalm, David speaks for God in Psalm 32:8-9:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”

All teachers know students they have to control, and even then, do not learn well, because they show reluctance and stubbornness. God looks for those with whom He can joyfully share His lessons.

As the new school year begins, let it remind you to come to God as an eager student. He has life-long teaching to do, and He expects us to be part of the process!



Monday, August 26, 2013

The Fullness of Time


[Photo of  a pregnant woman]

I suppose every mother can imagine the meaning of the phrase “In the fullness of time.” There is no “hurrying up” a baby’s birth. At seven months, a pregnant woman cannot say, “O.K. I’ve had it. Today’s the day I’m going to have the baby.”

Authors of scripture use that phrase from time to time. For example, note these words from Galatians 4:4:

“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”

But, you say, “I’m not pregnant, nor do I intend to be. What does this phrase have to do with me?”

I believe God waits with us for a specific time—the fullness of time, so to speak—to bring about the big events of our lives.

Like the tired pregnant woman, we often wish the trial or the long waiting period we are experiencing would end. But God, in His silence, appears to be waiting for some specific time and place and manner in which to answer our long and persistent prayers.

Scripture gives us many examples of the way He dealt with people after He put them through long periods of waiting when He could have come sooner and answered their prayers.

We see one example of this in Peter, the Disciple of Jesus. In his weakness, he disowned Jesus on the night before the crucifixion. He immediately repented and wept over his sin, but Jesus waited to set things right and commission Peter for further service.

Can you imagine how Peter must have felt when, with the other disciples, they beheld Jesus as He came to them after the resurrection in the upper room? Nothing in the text suggests that Jesus specifically addressed Peter in those visits. Did Peter wonder whether Jesus was still hurt and terribly grieved over his sin? Did he wonder whether his days of service to Christ were over, yet long for Jesus to speak his name?

We get a little more insight into Jesus’ approach to Peter when, on the seashore several days later He pulled Peter aside and asked Him the very personal questions about Peter’s commitment to Him as recorded in John 21:15-19. And not only did Jesus finally speak to Peter, He showed His love and call on Peter’s life by reinstating him and commissioning him as a leader in guiding the Early Church.

When we wait for God to come to us, we must believe He has a “fullness of time” which He has appointed. We should long to hear Him speak our name, to teach us what He wants us to have learned through the pain, and expect Him who has called us in the past to place a new assignment in our hands. What will He “birth” in us?



Monday, August 19, 2013



[Photo of a desert oasis]

The whole tribe of Israel, approximately two million people strong, had left Egypt by the miraculous hand of God. They had seen God defeat their Egyptian captors who had pursued them to the Red Sea, where God parted the waters for the Israelites and drowned their enemies with those same waters.

If you read Exodus 15, you see there the victorious song they sang, led by Moses and Miriam. They had bright hopes and a marvelous future in the Promised Land ahead of them. Yet, in verse 22, the story changes when God shows His people that He intends to test them before giving them this promise.

They finally found water after three days of thirsty travel. But, at Marah they could not drink because of the bitterness. That which should have refreshed them, would only have poisoned them. God directed Moses to find a piece of wood he could throw into the water to make it sweet so that they could drink. He “healed” the water.

After they had taken a drink, God shared with them His intention to test them in the wilderness. He also made a pact with them that He would “heal” them of all the diseases of Egypt if they would pay attention and obey His commands. Once He promised them this, they moved on and He brought them to an oasis in Elim of rich, verdant, lavish palm trees and springs of water.

This story reminds me of friends who have lived in the wilderness far longer than they could have ever imagined. The water they have had to drink tastes bitter and putrid. This story from Exodus reminds me to pray that God would send “healing” to these bitter waters while He assigns them to dwell in Marah, so that they witness God’s sustaining presence.

Of course, while they may have imagined that Marah was God’s place of blessing for them, they haven’t even begun to imagine that He has an Elim for them down the road.

Exodus 15: 27 says:

“They camped [at Elim] there near the water.”

This was not only a place to drink, it was a place to stay for a while.

When we pray for those, even ourselves, who may be traveling in the wilderness, we need to pray that God will sustain them in Marah with His healing waters, but ultimately that He will lead them to Elim, a place of abundance of His blessing where they can at last find camping ground!



Monday, August 12, 2013



[Photo of a wax-sealed envelope]

 “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership
on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as
a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
 —1 Corinthians 1:22

When I was a teenager, I received a gift of a stamping kit for use on envelopes. The kit came complete with a stick of wax and two metal sealers. For me, it served as just a fun way to complete my friendly letters. In ages past, however, seals served as authentic means of verifying documents that came from important people.

In the Old Testament, we read of the Babylonian and Persian kings sealing documents in order to declare oath written within irrevocable. Once sealed, the decree had to remain in tact. For example, King Nebuchadnezzar signed such a decree and could not reverse the decision to place Daniel in the lions’ den.

In modern times, tags are used as seals, or a cattleman may brand a cow or horse signifying his ownership. The electric meter outside your house has a seal that indicates to the electric utility that no one has tampered with that meter.

In Bible times, a servant who chose to remain with his owner after the six year limit on his servitude, would be marked by a piercing of one ear. (see Exodus 21:2-6 and Deuteronomy 15:12-18). This would guarantee him as a servant of the owner for life.

The New Testament tells us, in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, that God has put His seal of ownership on us—His guarantee that we belong to Him. This seal remains secure forever.

If we have received the gift of salvation that God has offered to us through faith, placed our trust in His Son as our Savior, and answered His call to serve Him for life, He has declared that He cannot revoke this seal on us. In fact, God has given us a deposit—the presence of His Holy Spirit within us.

To experience this branding with God’s own seal requires nothing from us but our humble gratitude. His choice of us as His very own, though too wonderful to comprehend, began before the foundation of the world and came to completion through the accomplishment of Christ’s finished work on the cross of Calvary.

We belong to Him forever. Romans 11:29 gives us this assurance:

“…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

Imagine a beautifully sealed envelope with you inside being kept close to God’s heart until the very day that Christ opens the seal in Heaven. He wants us there in Heaven with Him, but He also wants to use us each day as a witness to this world of His glory.

We go forth each day as chosen vessels of His mercy, grace, and love. We carry the Good News of His Gospel to everyone who crosses our pathway. What joy we should feel that God has chosen us, sealed us, and desires to use us in His service.



Monday, August 5, 2013

In the Hands of the Expert Carpenter


[Photo of the hands of a carpenter working with a plane]

 “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver,
but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and
some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter,
he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy,
useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”
 —2 Timothy: 2:20-21

I have several articles made of wood that were finely crafted. They are among my prized possessions because of their beauty, even though they each have a useful purpose as well.

I can imagine the carpenter beginning with a rough piece of wood in which he spied some beauty even before he started. As he sawed and chiseled, rubbed, and finished the piece, it took hours of delicate and expert work.

Imagine a fine violin, a carved piano leg, an exquisite jewelry box, and Indian canoe, each built for a “noble purpose.” But, think of what the piece of wood has been through to get to the place of beauty and purpose.

Can you see the floor under the carpenter’s bench, full of sawdust and wood shavings? The wood has gone through a complete transformation under the artistic hands of the master carpenter. He has cut out imperfections, chiseled away knots, and rubbed down and smoothed every inch to get rid of splinters. He has covered the piece with a carefully chosen finish.

We Christians resemble a piece of wood, carved and sanded by our Master. Theologians call the process I’m describing “sanctification.” God sanctifies those of us whom He has already called and justified. He has chosen us, not because of something He sees in us, but because He wants to fashion an instrument for His use out of our rough origins.

The process of sanctification, like the work of a carpenter, appears to us as torment and distress. Sometimes we think God has left more “shavings” on the floor than He has left of us to use. But He understands the process much better than we, and can see the finished product, an instrument for noble purposes—His purposes.

Trusting Him in this lifelong process of sanctification, and co-operating with His means to get us there will yield for Him the person He wants us to be. He will use us in noble and in ordinary ways to glorify Him, our Master Carpenter.



Monday, July 29, 2013

Taking Care


[Photo of a frazzled woman]

I played the French horn in college, but the price of the horn prevented me from having my own instrument. Therefore, in order to play in the orchestra and wind ensembles, I needed to use a school owned horn. So, my professor assigned me one which played well, though sported enough dents to reveal that it had been around for a few years.

At my first lesson, the professor said, “Did you know you could wash this thing in the bathtub?” He proceeded to tell me how to take it all apart and run water through it in order to get rid of the putrid smell within. So, I followed his advice, and took it back to my dorm for “a bath.”

Now, the French horn isn’t the only instrument that needs special care. I learned, as a music teacher in public schools, that oboe reeds crack, dry trumpet valves stick, mouthpieces get stuck in trombones and flute keypads fall out. All need attention from time to time.

What would happen to the music from these instruments if the player did not maintain them? The music would indeed suffer. A stuck key, or a squealing reed, would obviously influence the sound and the ability of the player to do his or her best job in producing music.

Christians tend to have the same problems as well-used musical instruments. We have a “song to sing” so to speak, and need to have our instruments in tip-top shape in order for the music to come out. When we live with our bodies tired, or malnourished, or out of shape, we cannot give to God our very best.

However, I know that our schedules often become unbalanced, because other’s expectations of us box us into a corner, or family demands make us feel obligated to sacrifice even healthy patterns of living in order to meet them. The lack of balance keeps our bodies ill-maintained and unable to do our best for Him, for our families, for our employers.

God even rested on the seventh day! He was showing us His pattern for living. You all know the third Commandment found in Exodus 34:21:

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest.”

But do you remember the rest of it?

“Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Said another way, even when we are busiest!!

In our society, we tend either to make too much of our bodies, or too little. Balance requires us to maintain good habits for healthy bodies, but to also make time for our spiritual selves as well. That is the other side of the coin.

Where do you see yourself? Too occupied with your physical needs, or careless and dangerously forgetful of them? Take a good look, and commit yourselves to the balance required for healthy bodies that can readily serve God when He calls. Like the French Horn, learn to take proper care of yourself in order that, with your whole being, you will remain able to play beautiful music for Him.



Monday, July 22, 2013

I See You!


[Photo of a child peeking through his hands]

We’ve all played with a baby and asked, “Where’s Joey?” Babies love to hide behind their hands so we “can’t see them.” It seems that children enjoy hiding, even through elementary school when they say to the rest of the class while waiting for their teacher, “Let’s hide!” They all scurry under their desks or into the closet.

Truth is, even adults get into the hiding game with God. We try to forget that He sees all we do, what we say, and even knows what we think. Or, maybe we think as long as another person doesn’t see us, God will forgive us. In that case we’ve traded presumption for faith.

We call this characteristic of God, this ability He has to know all things we do, omniscience. He studies us, has known us before the foundation of the world, and no matter where we go, He can find us.

King David, the Psalmist, captured this truth best when he said in Psalm 139:3, 7-12:

“You are familiar with all my ways…Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you;”

If you find yourself hiding from God, ask why, and then determine to go to Him and confess to Him what He already knows. Like Adam and Eve, who hid in the Garden, as recorded in Genesis 3:8, it is no use. He sees all, knows all, and will forgive all, once you come out of hiding and face Him with a repentant heart.



Monday, July 15, 2013



[Photo of woman on phone being interrupted by kids]

Maaaaaaahm!! I can hear the child yelling and tugging at her Mom as she tries to make sense of the phone call that she has just answered. It always seems that children have an urgent need just at that moment when Mom has to give her attention to something else.

I think God often feels that way too! More often than I can count, when I sit down to read my Bible or pray (intending to earnestly and fervently do so!), there come a hundred thoughts bombarding me at that moment. Some have real urgency like, “Oh! I forgot to take the garbage out and I hear the truck coming” or “Will Dad live to see another day?”

Some distractions simply have to do with tasks we have to accomplish, or fears of a dreaded medical test or surgery. My rabbit holes often come from new creative ideas I have for some project I’m doing.

Now, I do believe some of these “distracting thoughts” can actually be the Holy Spirit bringing His will to our attention, and I, for one, have had His interruptions of my reading or praying with an idea or a prayer burden that I know He has placed in my head.

Largely though, the interruptions we experience come from our own sinful, self-obsessed natures. Thomas Manton in his Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, lists six causes for haunting distractions that carry us away from the prayer life God wants for us. These six are:

  1. Satan is at our right hand ready to resist us in prayer.

  2. We are restless creatures. It is difficult for all of us to concentrate on one object for any length of time.

  3. We are distracted by practical atheism… Things we see have a greater force upon us that the true God who is Spirit and invisible power.

  4. Lust rooted in us will also distract us when we go about any duty.

  5. Fancy and curiosity offered us by the senses or memory, will be an occasion for diversion.

  6. Sharp worries will hinder our faith and draw away our attention from prayer.

He goes on to say that

“We must be like the priests, who went on with their sacrifices as the Roman troops broke into Jerusalem.”

Next time you give yourself to prayer and Bible reading, remember the enemy of distraction which seeks to bring you away from what God wants to say to you and through you. Satan knows the power behind what you are doing. Pray for God’s grace to shut him out!



Monday, July 8, 2013



[Photo of  women arguing]

 Molly, my sister, and I fell out,
And what do you think it was all about?
She loved coffee and I loved tea,
And that was the reason we couldn’t agree.
 —an old Mother Goose rhyme

I had a sister close in age with whom I had plenty of arguments as a child. And, the reasons for the arguments were usually as silly as the Nursery Rhyme above. Much of that arguing promotes a means for a healthy growing up, as siblings learn to negotiate and live with others.

Within the body of Christ, we have been admonished to treat each other as brothers and sisters and to live in unity. Many a church fight has occurred because Christian siblings disagree on very trivial matters. Disagreements over the type and color of the carpeting for the church parlor, or whether to hold a full-size brunch after church or a light reception.

However, not all arguments between brothers and sisters in Christ result from juvenile issues. Some come from disagreements over important doctrinal beliefs or from sinful power plays. These types of problems need genuine spiritual counsel, repentance, or even separation.

However, when matters really don’t require anything but humble submission to one another, confession of prideful selfishness, or a heart-to-heart talk, God expects us to work it out ourselves.

Even in St. Paul’s day, he knew two church women who had locked horns. He said in Philippians 4:2-3:

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel.”

Imagine what such a schism between sisters does to the unity and peace of the church. Can either give effective service to Christ with such a rift between them? In so many places in Scripture, God shows us His high regard for unity in the body, even saying to Titus through Paul, as recorded in Titus 3:10:

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”

Wow! Christ wants His church to demonstrate the same unity that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show us. Through the display of a unity like this, so dissimilar from the world, people will be drawn into the Kingdom.

God help us to not allow the “little foxes to destroy the vines.” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Small things have big effect in the Kingdom of God.



Monday, July 1, 2013

The Steinway 1


[Photo of the inside of a Steinway grand piano]

 “…I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
 —Zechariah 13:9

My business career has been as an owner of an advertising agency. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work on many different and prestigious accounts. One of those accounts was Steinway Pianos, the make of the world’s finest pianos. Each piano has always been made from scratch; it takes over a year to make one Steinway.

The most impressive scene as I toured the manufacturing plant was the place where the soundboard is stretched to its maximum tolerance and allowed to sit for an extended period until it remains in the curved design. This was done in an off-to-the-corner part of the plant. If the wood were alive, it would be crying out for mercy.

After an extended time of stretching, the wood will never spring back to its original state. It is permanently changed. The piano is becoming a fine-tuned instrument. After this process takes place, the next step requires another point of stress. It takes 11 tons of pressure on a piano to tune it. Each step in the process moves the piano closer to a finished product that will ultimately be played by the world’s finest musicians. These musicians desire a particular sound that only a piano like this can make.

God looks at each of us as a fine-tuned instrument. However, we begin as rough wood that He desires to transform into gold. Tuning us requires certain experiences that will stretch our faith, our frame, and our very life.

Sainthood springs out of suffering. If we stand the strain of this intense process, we will come forth as gold—as a sweet-smelling offering to our Maker. When we are in the midst of these times, it feels like fire. It is painful to be stretched beyond our perceived limits, but the Lord knows this is necessary for us to become an instrument that can play a beautiful song that others will seek after.

Let the master Craftsman have His way in your life today. You will be pleased with the instrument He fashions.


1 from a piece by Os Hillman ©2002 as quoted by Francis J. Kong in “Business Matters,” a column that appeared in The Philippine Star.



Monday, June 24, 2013

The Importance of Personal Pronouns


[Photo of little girl hugging her doll]

After “Mama” and “Dada,” one of the first words many babies learn to say is “Mine!”

From the very beginnings of our lives we are interested in what belongs to us. As we grow older, many of the things that we thought were necessary to have in order to make us happy, just don’t matter anymore. Many times the important things are the intangibles: the people, the work, the places and the experiences we own.

Some of the most precious scriptures to Christians are those that tell us what we have because of Christ. We are told in at least four places in the Psalms that God is our portion. (Psalm 16:5, 73:26, 119:57 and 142:5).

Quoting Puritan writer, George Swinnock from his Works, IV:7-12, he says:

“When God says to the soul, ‘I am yours, and all that I have,’ who can tell how the heart leaps with joy…the pronoun ‘my’ is worth so much to the soul. All our consolation indeed consists in this pronoun. He is my God. All the joys of the believer are hung upon this one string. Break this and all is lost.”

Nothing comforts a Christian like the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” God yearns to make us His. He initiates that personal relationship that He intends to keep for eternity. When we acknowledge Him as ours, both He and we internally leap for joy. Martin Luther once said:

“The heart of religion lies in its personal pronouns.”

In 1876, hymn writer George W. Robinson penned these words:

Loved with everlasting love,
    led by grace that love to know;
Gracious Spirit from above,
    Thou hast taught me it is so!
O this full and perfect peace!
    O this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
    I am His, and He is mine.
In a love which cannot cease,
    I am His, and He is mine.

Heav’n above is softer blue,
    Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
    Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
    flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
    I am His, and He is mine.
Since I know, as now I know,
    I am His, and He is mine.

Things that once were wild alarms
    cannot now disturb my rest;
Closed in everlasting arms,
    pillowed on the loving breast.
O to lie forever here,
    doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear,
    I am His, and He is mine.
While He whispers in my ear,
    I am His, and He is mine.

His forever, only His;
    Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss
    Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heav’n and earth may fade and flee,
    firstborn light in gloom decline;
But while God and I shall be,
    I am His, and He is mine.
But while God and I shall be,
    I am His, and He is mine.

Can you say of God, “I am His and He is mine!”?

The answer to that question will reveal much about your life of faith and where you are on the road. The next time you hear a toddler yell, “Mine!”—or read Scripture and see the personal pronouns—remember all that God has to give you and rejoice!



Monday, June 17, 2013



[Photo of trees]

 “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
 —Psalm 92:12-15 NIV

I love trees. I always have. I remember as a child lying in the grass under the huge maple in our front lawn and watching the leaves dance under the blue sky. As a teacher, I admired a line of trees that I observed every day on my way to school. I enjoy looking at the various shapes of trees, and marveling at the “perfect” contour of some.

Psalmists particularly like the image of the tree in their poetry. The Book of Genesis speaks of two very important trees (Genesis 2:9), and the book of Revelation describes the River of Life in the Heavenly Kingdom with the Tree of Life on either side of the river yielding fruit. (Revelation 22:1-2).

In some places we are referred to as “oaks of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:3). But, in the passage I quote at the beginning of this devotional, the righteous (in Christ) are likened to a palm tree. These trees are graceful and erect standing like sentinels.

We are also compared to cedars of Lebanon. These trees exhibit strength and majesty, and of course, fragrance. Both of trees are planted (established) in the house of the Lord. What an honored place of protection.

I love the part that says they will still bear fruit in old age, fresh and green. No craggy, dried up, fruitless boughs here! They still declare that the Lord is upright, a Rock, with no wickedness in Him. Still praising Him to all, whether verbally, or in the strength of grace that keeps them still tall and valuable to the King.

I hope you notice more trees this week. Wonder at the age and glory of each one, the unique fruit, the leaves, the beauty of each one. May they remind you of Christian sisters and brothers of all ages and the importance they carry in Christ’s Kingdom.



Monday, June 10, 2013

Untapped Riches


[Photo of an old woman with a purse]

 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us
with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show
the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
 —Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV

Edna Farnsworth (not her real name) lived in a large house on an avenue of wealthy estates, many with servants’ quarters. Among these houses also sat the Governor’s mansion. This street of beautiful homes framed our church lot and Edna was a frequent guest with us.

Now she never attended a service, but came often to borrow books from our library. She also managed to find out when the church scheduled various receptions with dainty foods, and showed up to pile up her plate (and her purse).

Apparently Edna didn’t want to admit her wealth, or had become miserly in her old age.

How many of us have received the richness of God’s grace through forgiveness of sin and have a place forever in his family, but forget to appropriate that forgiveness and appreciate it? We feel more comfortable, like Edna, borrowing and begging rather than boldly living like children of the King.

Let us today remember our riches in Christ and rejoice in his goodness to us!

 Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ,
Wealth that can never be told!
Riches exhaustless of mercy and grace,
Precious, more precious than gold!
 —Fanny Crosby