Monday, December 29, 2014

Get Your Hopes Up!


[Photo of a disgusted looking girl sitting at a table]

“So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had
hoped from the Lord’…The Lord is good to those whose
hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”
—Lamentations 3: 18, 25 (emphasis added)

I must have been twelve or so—the age when most girls start to worry about their appearance and whether or not they will fit in with their friends. I had asked for a certain kind of sweater for Christmas and literally didn’t care about receiving anything much besides it.

Christmas Day came with the usual excitement and anticipation. Our family celebrated and gave gifts—and, after opening my gifts, I was shocked to realize that I had not receive the greatly desired sweater.

As a mopey teen, I clearly showed my disappointment. I even have a photograph to prove it! How could my parents have heard my distinct request and not fulfilled it?

Two days later, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins got together for our annual extended family Christmas dinner and gift giving. Our large table was filled with all sorts of delightful dishes. We enjoyed lots of laughter and conversation. Once the dishes were done—it took so long in those days because we had no dish washer—we sat down to open presents.

Imagine my delight and surprise when the person who had drawn my name gave me the sweater. And not just the sweater, but the exact style, color, and size I had wanted! How foolish I felt for ruining my Christmas Day feeling sorry for myself and for doubting my parents’ careful love for me.

Many years later, I read the verses from Lamentations that I have quoted above. I realized then that God doesn’t want us to think of Him as an indulgent Santa Claus who promptly gives His children everything for which they hope. Instead, He wants us to place our hope in Him and leave the actual details of meeting our genuine needs to His great wisdom.

The Scriptures tell us in Romans 15:13 that God is a God of hope:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This kind of hope is an amalgam of joy, peace, and trust in our God. This kind of hope produces in us a much deeper sense of belief than just a child-like expectancy that comes when a girl blows out all her birthday cake candles wishing for something very special.

During this Christmas season, and throughout the year ahead, whether you receive from God all you for which you hope or not, may you learn to hope in Him and be at peace with the decisions He makes in your behalf.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Ready or Not, Here I Come!


[Photo of Jesus returning in the clouds]

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even
the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only
the Father…Therefore, keep watch, because you
do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
—Matthew 24:36, 42

As recorded in Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus told his disciples a story about ten bridesmaids waiting to greet the bridegroom when he came. They were to greet him with torches (or lamps) lit. Five wise bridesmaids took a jar of extra oil with them, as the torches needed frequent refueling. The other five only had their torches. All fell asleep waiting, because the bridegroom took a long time getting there.

At midnight, the call went out that the bridegroom had arrived. The foolish bridesmaids thought they could get extra oil from the wise bridesmaids, but as it turned out, the wise bridesmaid did not feel it was prudent to give away any of their needed fuel. While the foolish bridesmaids went off to buy more oil, the bridegroom came. When the foolish bridesmaids returned, they found the door to the banquet had closed, shutting them out.

Jesus told this parable to warn all of us that He will return suddenly at a time known only to God. Unless we prepare ahead of time, we will not have time to get ready for His coming. Therefore, we must diligently stay on watch for Him and remain prepared and ready for His return.

During this time of Advent when we tend to focus more on the first coming of Jesus, we must not forget that Advent is also a time when we remember and celebrate the fact that He has promised to return in power and glory. He has not told us when or how long we will have to wait—whether we will die waiting, or actually see Him come back ourselves.

Some women know all too well the experience of not being fully prepared for the arrival of new baby when he or she suddenly decides to be born. Thinking the delivery will still be several weeks away, they have the crib on order, the nursery not quite painted, all the new clothes unwashed and laying on the bassinet. But, the baby will not wait!

In Revelation 22:7, 12, and 20, Jesus made the statement three times:

“Behold, I am coming soon!”

Jesus wants us to prepare, to watch, and to hope for His soon arrival. While we wait, we must prepare our hearts, we must keep aware of our sins, and we must look forward with anticipation, but with great care. Scripture says in 1 John 3:2-3 that:

“When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

At Jesus’ first coming, many did not believe. Yet, we read in Luke 2:25-38 that the day Jesus was presented for his circumcision at the temple, Simeon, a man waiting for the “consolation of Israel,” took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God. Also, an elderly prophetess, Anna, who had waited all her life for this day, also recognized the baby Messiah and “gave thanks to God.”

As we celebrate the first coming of Jesus, let us remember to prepare ourselves, as the five wise bridesmaids for the second. Let us say with John in Revelation 22:20:

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”



Monday, December 15, 2014

Arise, Shine!


[Photo of white Christmas lights]

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”
—Isaiah 60:1

What would Christmas be like without lights? We string the lights on our eaves, in our wreaths and garlands, and of course, on our trees. They brighten the night at this most gloomy time of the year.

Light as a metaphor shows up throughout Scripture. In fact, the first words God spoke in Genesis 1:2 were, “Let there be light!”

When God led the Israelites in their escape from Egypt and through forty years in the wilderness to the Promised Land, He directed their way by means of light. As it states in Exodus 13:21:

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”

And where do we get the idea of lighting the night at Christmas? From Jesus Himself, and His birth. Luke 2:9 records how the angels filled the sky with light to announce His coming to the Shepherds.

Years later, when Jesus began His earthly ministry, He proclaimed in John 8:12:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

But to what does this figure of speech refer? “Light” refers to revelation.

When Jesus came to earth—and when He comes to us today—He reveals Himself to be the representation of God on earth. When we look at Him, we see the character of God, and hear His will revealed through the words of Jesus. We also see for the first time our utter sinfulness and need for a Savior.

A more astounding miracle happens when we open our lives to acknowledge the presence of Christ’s light and bend our wills to accept His revealed will. When we acknowledge His gift of forgiveness through the sacrifice He made in His death on the cross, He makes us “lights” in this dark world as well—as if we were a string of lights around the world.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Jesus came into this world in a very “dark” time in history. In the darkness of our own sinful culture, He wants to walk into this culture through your life. He wants to show His light to others.

Enjoy the Christmas lights of this season, and let them remind you that, in the darkness of our current age, Jesus continues to shed His marvelous light.

Glory to God!



Monday, December 8, 2014

Road Work


[Photo of road work]

“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low,
the crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth,
and all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”
—Luke 3:4-6

If you live in Pennsylvania, you know something about crooked roads. The phrase “You can’t get there from here!” truly expresses the sentiment of one trying to travel from east to west in this Keystone State—especially with the Allegheny Mountains that split the Commonwealth, northeast to southwest.

My father used to say that what began as simple cow paths later became wagon trails. The wagon trails then became roads. That’s how the tangled highway system of our state began.

Apparently in Jesus’ time, the roads of Israel bore a resemblance to Pennsylvania roads. Whenever a dignitary made his intentions known to travel to a destination, those living in the region would get to work on the roads, making them level, smooth, and straight.

In similar fashion, John the Baptist spread the Word of God ahead of the coming of Jesus, just as the Prophet Isaiah had foretold in Isaiah 40:3 (as quoted by Dr. Luke in the passage at the beginning of this blog post):

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

However popular the tradition of road repair may have been, God had a different kind of preparation in mind here. He was much more concerned about the “heart condition” of the people who called themselves faithful followers of the One True God. Over centuries, and lifetimes, their lives had become crooked and going in wrong directions.

John the Baptist said to them, “Take a look at your lives. Are you ready to receive the Messiah when He comes?” John the Baptist preached repentance, a turning from sin. He said that things needed fixing in order to hear correctly the Word of the Lord and know His salvation. Things needed to be straightened out—the people needed to take a spiritual inventory.

But what about you and me in this Advent season? In Philippians 2:15-16, the Apostle Paul told the Philippians they should take account of who God wanted them to be:

…blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.

The Messiah has come, but still calls us to make heart “inspections” and “inventory” from time to time, to check the “roads” on which Christ wants to come to us. He wants to come in new ways and with fresh applications of His Word to us.

In this Advent season, let us examine what may have become “crooked” in our lives. Then, let us prepare for a Christmas visit from our King!



Monday, December 1, 2014



[Photo of decorating a cookie]

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert
prepare the way for the Lord;’”
—Isaiah 40:3

Christmas preparations seem to begin earlier every year. If you’re like me, you would rather have a more leisurely time to get ready than become swept up in a last minute rush. After all, the point of the trappings, gifts, decorations, baking, and carol singing is to create an enjoyable anticipation, right?

We prepare for Christmas by shopping and gift buying, putting up the tree, baking all those special cookies and treats that our families love, and gathering with friends to sing carols. The day itself, for which we have so carefully prepared, comes and goes before we know it. But, the warm glow of the anticipation of it seems to last much longer.

If we think in spiritual terms, the holiday that celebrates the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, also requires a careful preparation. We consider Advent as that time of anticipation and readiness for both the celebration of Christ’s incarnation and also for His ultimate return. We sing hymns that reflect a poverty of spirit and humble consideration of how desperate we are without the new life that Christ came to give us.

One image that often gives me pause is that of the desert. We prepare for the Lord while we wander “in the desert.” We can think of this in terms of our dry, lifeless hearts coming in expectation to God. We can also reflect on the “desert places” of our circumstances. Perhaps the year has brought distress and sadness through grief or sickness or loss. God asks us to make this “desert” a prepared place for Christ to come to us.

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the people for Jesus’ first coming. John lived in the desert and preached repentance of heart to those who so long had anticipated the coming of the Messiah. The scriptures tell us in Luke 3:2-3:

…the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

So, how should we prepare our hearts for Christmas? Contemplation, repentance of sin, viewing our trials as a place for God to come and do new work in us, and considering with thanksgiving all He has done in sending Jesus to be our Savior, Lord, and King. In the words of Psalm 50:23:

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.

As we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth and spend time making our homes welcoming places for family and friends, we would do well to remember to do the same in our hearts. Let us truly make a welcoming place in our hearts for our Savior. Let us, indeed, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”



Monday, November 24, 2014



[Photo of pots of soup on the stove]

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being
watchful in it with thanksgiving; ”
—Colossians 4:2 RSV

How many pots do you have simmering at the moment? Oh, I don’t mean literal pots on your stove. I’m referring to the “spiritual pots” of your unanswered prayers.

On-line cooking professional, James Peterson, says this about simmering:

Unlike the French, who are gifted with a vocabulary that describes the stages of a liquid about to boil (such asfremir, which means to tremble or shake), we have no equivalent words to describe variations in simmering. But for most purposes, a simmer is the stage when the water is in motion but almost no bubbles break the surface; they’re trying to, but the water's surface tension holds them in place.

Some days, when we spend time in prayer, we feel that God will break through with an answer at any time. We can see the “bubbles” on the surface. Yet sometimes when we have laid our petitions before the Lord for many weeks and months, there comes a time when our simmering liquid seems at the point of “boiling dry.” We become tired of praying for the same things and have lost our zeal. We find ourselves at the point of giving up.

Yet God’s Word encourages us not to give up. Notice this instruction from Hebrews 6:12:

“…imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

We simply cannot rush God’s sovereign plan for us and His plan for those for whom we pray. He knows just how long the “simmering process” must continue.

The verse at the beginning of this blog post tells us to watch the “pot”—and be thankful while doing so—believing that God will answer according to His will and because of His incredibly all-knowing love for us. He has a feast planned for us that requires the long, slow-cooking process.

When you are tempted to feel that God isn’t listening to your prayers, know that He watches over you with pleasure as you “watch” for His answers and wait on Him. He smells the fragrance of your prayers. He sees and knows the best time to bring that “dish” to completion.

With great anticipation, thank Him for His amazingly wonderful answers, even before you see any indication of them!



Monday, November 17, 2014

Taste Test


[Photo of a woman tasting a spoonful of soup]

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed
is the man who takes refuge in him.”
—Psalm 34:8

I am always heartened to see the professional cooks on television taste their food to see if they like it. As a rather insecure cook myself, I must frequently use the taste test.

This Psalm 34, from which I quoted above, was written by David when he was in trouble. He had no one to trust but God Himself. Here David urges those who have difficulties like his to test the Lord and to find out that that the “taste” proves His goodness.

So, how are we to do this particular kind of “taste test”? We perform the test by putting our trust in God when we need protection or provision. David tells us we won’t be disappointed. The test of our faith will reveal so much more nourishment and enjoyment than we could even imagine or expect.

We can also “taste” the goodness of our God by the reminders of His power, grace, and love through His word. Another psalmist tells us in Psalm 119:103:

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”

Like a savory meal or a rich, satisfying dessert, we can dine on God’s revealed truth to us in His precious Word.

When I have guests coming for a meal, I am especially nervous about the right balance of the food. When we share our favorite dishes, we want those who we’ve invited to enjoy them as much as we do.

But, what about those who have never “tasted” our God through Jesus Christ, His Son? How should we prepare and season the food of God’s Word for those we hope to invite to the meal?

We want our feast filled with the zest of Christ. We desire those who have never tasted Him, to smell the aroma, to be drawn to the table prepared by the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus told us that, as Christians, we have the effect of presenting the world with His savory goodness. In Matthew 5:13, He said:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”

Pray that God will allow you new bites of His goodness. Then pray that He will make your life and the “food” you present to those who need it, tasty indeed, full of flavor and fresh goodness.



Monday, November 10, 2014



[Photo of a woman collapsed on a very full suitcase]

“I the Lord do not change.”
—Malachi 3:6

Too much change makes me crazy! Over the years, I’ve learned in many things to “roll with the punches” but that has been a very long and painful process.

I tend to feel that the formation of any good work a person does takes an extended period of time. Solid relationships take time to develop and nurture. It takes time to learn to trust people and for them to get to know and trust me.

I see the damage that moving a child from school to school and home to home does. While they say children are resilient, I also know that most children need stability in order to learn and to be happy.

Although as an adult I have moved my residence from place to place with some regularity, for 26 of those years, I was able to maintain my teaching position and my church in the same place. I felt established and I put down deep roots.

However, in my maturity, God has seen to it that I more and more must begin to learn to trust Him when changes occur in my life. The stability I once knew, I can no longer rely upon. My jobs haven’t remained the same. Some family members once strong have become sick and weak or have died. Church cultures change and my place in those churches have changed. I have come to accept the saying, “The only thing that stays the same is change.”

Yet, as Christians, we can know for certain that God does not change. The Apostle James writes in James 1:17:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Though our knowledge of God changes as we get to know Him better and better, we can count on Him to always love us and always care for us no matter what changes we may face in life.

Henry Lyte, a pastor from a fishing village in England who lived in the early 19th century, wrote these words:

“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”

God wants our security to come, not from maintaining a predictable life, but from trusting in His immovable and unchangeable love and care for us. I urge you to begin to learn, as I am trying to do, to let our unchangeable God be all that you need in this ever-changing life.



Monday, November 3, 2014

In Your Hand


[Photo of man playing the saw]

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that
in your hand?’ ‘A staff,’ he replied.”
—Exodus 4:2

Sam Kressler played the saw. This older gentleman in my home church—a farmer and lover of God and His church—didn’t have musical training, but he had a handsaw and a desire to play music for the Lord.

Dorothy Anderson, a single woman in a church in which I was a member as an adult, nurtured fabulous flower gardens and carefully and lovingly decorated the communion table with her blooms every week.

Catherine Winkworth, a Nineteenth Century English woman, had an interest in German chorales. As a personal devotional exercise, she began translating hymns and chorales into English. By the time she had finished she had found and translated 400 hymns. “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee,” “Jesus, Priceless Treasure,” “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” “Now Thank We All Our God,” are among those which we cherish in our congregational singing today.

Moses only had a staff to offer to the Lord. Oh, but how God used it! With that staff and the direction of the Lord, Moses brought about the plagues on the Egyptians, parted the Red Sea, brought water from the rock in the wilderness, and defeated the Amalekites.

Young David had a slingshot and five smooth stones. Yet God used those to defeat a giant and his mighty army.

What has God put into your hand? He can use it for His glory if He also has your willing heart. Never think anything is too small or too insignificant for Him to use for His glory.

As you give yourself to God today, let nothing seem out of reach of His mighty use. You will be surprised what He draws on for His purpose.

—Posted: Monday, November 3, 2014



Monday, October 27, 2014



[Photo of small boys in a Halloween devil's costumes]

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
—1 Peter 5:8

At Halloween’s Trick-or-Treat time, we tend to overlook any danger that might arise from dressing children in ghoulish costumes. To many, using such costumes represents innocent fun and simple make-believe. In fact, any notion that such characters are real and can pose a threat to anyone, doesn’t really occur to people, even some sincere Christians.

Yet, Bible writers apparently had a different view of things. Witchcraft is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. Acts 8:9-24 tells the story of a sorcerer who had a large following for a long time until the Greater Power of Jesus came to these people.

And, of course, we have the record of Jesus praying in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” these words in Matthew 6:13:

“Deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13).

Trifling with evil through Ouiji boards, séances, physic readings, or even the reading of Astrology carries dangerous consequences. Make no mistake. Our enemy is too powerful for us when we try to meet him by ourselves. We can only defeat him through the power of the living Christ in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In John 8:44, Scripture calls this enemy a liar and a murderer.

“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The Apostle Paul calls this enemy a masquerader in 2 Corinthians 11:14:

“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

Even without indulging in the practices of the magical arts mentioned above, as Christians we wage a difficult battle with this enemy. Even though it seems we fight on every side against the evil of our culture and those who hate the gospel, Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12:

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Yes. We need to know our enemy and have a healthy fear of his power, But, we can conquer the evil he throws at us through the strategic weapons of our spiritual warfare listed in Ephesians 6:10-18. We also can take comfort from reading 1 John 4:4:

“…the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Be aware of the subtle tricks of the Evil One. He loves to see God’s children in masks mocking him, while at the same time he masquerades himself as one who is an angel of light and good.

How appropriate that hard on the heels of Halloween, we can sing with gusto on Reformation Sunday the words written by Martin Luther in 1529:

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.



Monday, October 20, 2014

A Place of Springs


[Photo of a flowing spring]

“I am making a way in the desert and streams
in the wasteland… I provide water in the
desert and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen.”
—Isaiah 43:19-20

Have you ever struggled with a problem from which you had no way out? Has the road been dry and unyielding, going on much longer than you ever imagined it would? Do you have no strength for the fight, no tears left to shed, no prayers you haven’t spoken a thousand times? Then this blog post is for you.

I remember one school year during which I was assigned to teach in a school with poor discipline and with an age group to which I had trouble relating. It was a very bad “fit” for me, but I was plugging a hole in the schedule and the administration had shuffled teachers around so that I had room in my week for the classes there.

I remember how poorly the students treated me, even though I did my very best and spent hours and hours looking for materials I thought they would enjoy. Nothing worked. It was a very long school year.

Yet, amidst all the pain and lack of success with music classes, I had a group of students in my chorus who sang beautifully. They joyfully worked hard on the pieces I gave them and earned us a standing ovation at our spring concert. This group was my “oasis” in the desert during that awful school year.

I know a woman who had been an influential leader in her church, but when a new pastor came to the church, she realized he was not going to use her gifts as she had been so effectively used previously. She was heart sick that she was set aside, yet she felt committed to the church and its mission.

Not long after a new pastor came, she was led to a new para-church organization that needed her leadership skills. Also, she received an elevation at her secular job and was given new leadership opportunities there. Though she continued on at the church and was saddened by the direction things took there, God had given her other things that made her heart sing. This was her “oasis” in the desert in that difficult time.

A devoted Christian pastor I know went through the devastating loss of his ministry and his reputation through no fault of his own. The situation nearly ruined him financially, as well. Yet, in those days, he spent a couple of days a week watching his new granddaughter, who sat beside him in the car—those were days before car seats!—and with her little feet sticking straight ahead off the seat, she happily jabbered and sang in his presence. This was his “oasis” in the desert during a very discouraging time in his life.

While God doesn’t always take away our distressing wilderness experiences as quickly as we would like, in the midst of such a desert, He can provide those times of refreshing that keep us going.

When the people of Israel traveled the Sinai desert for 40 years, yearning for the rich foods of Egypt, and fighting off thirst, Scripture tells us in Psalm 78:19:

“…they spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?’”

This passage of Scripture goes on to say in Psalm 78:23-27:

“Yet he [God] gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. Men ate the bread of angels;…He rained meat down on them like dust, flying birds like sand on the seashore.”

The unbelief of these Israelites greatly disappointed God because He expected His own people to know that He could indeed spread a table before them in the desert.

Likewise, God is able to feed us and to give us a cool refreshing drink in our distress. When you go through a long drought you don’t understand, I urge you to put your trust in Him. He can and He will provide an “oasis” in the desert for you!



Monday, October 13, 2014

Congenital Defects


[Closeup photo of the face of a baby girl]

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
—Psalm 51:5

We thank God when we see a new baby healthy and strong. Most little ones appear so perfect in every way. Yet, some parents know all too well the reality of a baby born with a defect of some kind, even if she looks perfectly normal on the outside.

Many times these parents spend the early years of their child’s life in and out of operating rooms hoping that doctors can repair the problems with which she came into the world. They wait and watch for signs of normalcy and steady growth. If she progresses well, the parents rejoice that all the pain was worth the path to healing.

Truthfully, all people come into the world with congenital defects of the spiritual variety. We have a “heart defect.” In our natural state, we may look normal to the world, but inside we carry a flaw which will “kill” us in the end, unless we get help.

We are born spiritually blind to the fact that we begin our lives already mired in sin that we inherited from our parents all the way back to Adam. Unless we get the right treatment, we will go through life unable to see our own condition. In fact, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:1 that we are actually “…dead in our transgressions and sins.”

So, what do we have to do in order to obtain a repair for this condition and recover? There is really nothing we can do on our own. Fortunately, the operation has already occurred—the treatment has been completed! Jesus took the pain, the punishment for our sinful condition on the cross, and by faith in Him we can know His complete healing.

Jesus Himself said in John 5:24:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

For our blindness, God has given healing light, for Jesus is the Light of the World because, as the Apostle Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:4:

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

Even centuries before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Ezekiel prophesied about the surgical procedure for our healing in Ezekiel 36:26:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Hallelujah! God has already provided a “heart” transplant, light to heal our blindness, and eternal life in place of the living death with which we came into the world.

Through Jesus, we can walk in His perfection throughout our lifetime and in the eternity beyond.



Monday, October 6, 2014

Stagnant Cisterns


[Photo of a pool of stagnant water]

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken
me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own
cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
—Jeremiah 2:13

“Me do it!” We hear this exclamation from the mouths of “Terrible Twos”—those children who want to show their independence of others. Unfortunately, the trend continues well into adulthood. We find we would rather do it ourselves than accept God’s provisions for us.

The men of Babel revealed this sinful inclination to self-sufficiency when they said in Genesis 11:4:

“Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Sometimes, men and women of sincere faith, like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, feel they can “help God” by doing something meaningful for Him. Notice what Peter said in Luke 9:33:

“Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Why do we offer up these stagnant waters from our own “cisterns” and forsake the fresh springs of Living Water that God offers? Not only did God speak to Jeremiah about this kind of sparkling, clean water, but when speaking to the Samaritan woman, Jesus called Himself the Water of Life. He said in John 4:13:

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus not only wants us to quench our spiritual thirst by receiving the Living Water, He wants that water to flow from our lives to others. When speaking at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Jesus told the crowd in John 7:37-38:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Anything we offer to others or to God from our own reservoirs will only leave them running for a mouthwash! When we give the Water of Life—our Lord Jesus Christ—through the power of the Holy Spirit, we arouse their appetites, quench their thirst, and stir to life those who live in the land of death.

Let us forever take a sledgehammer to our old cisterns and fill them with cement. Then daily, let us drink deeply from the Spring of Living Waters, so that we might have something of great value to offer others.



Monday, September 29, 2014

You Talking to Me?


[Photo of a boy holding his father's hand waving goodbye]

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained by a righteous life.”
—Proverbs 16:31

I was both offended and touched by the little four-year-old boy when he shouted across the room, “Hi, Grandma!” I didn’t know him, and he was merely being friendly. But, the encounter set me back for a moment.

Having never had children or grandchildren, I had never heard such an address intended for me! How did he know my eyes were not focusing well that day, or that my feet were aching more than usual?

All this youngster saw was my gray hair, and assumed I was a woman of a certain age. I guess I am! Our culture so often looks down on the elderly, and most women do what they can to camouflage their true age. Some do better than others!

Our American society seems to have a pecking order: those who carry influence and those pushed aside. Minorities struggle with this constantly. They strive to figure out how they can compete for acceptability and significance.

Yes, age becomes a factor too. You don’t have to look far to see that advertisers aim for those under forty. Even churches spend time trying to appeal to what they think will appeal to that age group, or the even younger Millennials.

What of the rest of us? I guess in St. Paul’s day, the tables were reversed. Apparently their society looked down on the young, for he told Timothy, young in the faith, in 1 Timothy 4:12:

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

So, my challenge today for those of us no longer young is:

“Let no one despise your (age or race or gender or socio-economic position or educational status), but be an example in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

God intends us to always, and in all ways and all places, represent Him well so we may make a difference in our world.

St. Paul thought about the older women in his letter to Titus. He told Titus to encourage the older women of Crete to not only be an example, but to teach the younger women. Note what he wrote in Titus 2:1-10:

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

We all have whatever God wants to use in us to benefit other believers. Let no one look down on your gray hair, or, for that matter, anything else!



Monday, September 22, 2014



[Photo of a before and after furniture restoration]

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory
in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself
restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
—1 Peter 5:10

Have you ever salvaged something from an old barn, or found a treasure at an antique mall or flea market? Or, maybe you have an old tea pitcher or a clock given to you by your grandmother that just has never seemed useful to you. But, when someone with an eye for such things sees it, they can bring a new idea to life from what you may have thought was worthless.

Many of us enjoy picking out pieces that we believe can have a new life. That’s just what God has done with us. From before the foundation of the earth, He saw something in us that He could restore. So, in due season, He sent the Holy Spirit to salvage us and make us over into a new person.

The word “salvation” actually comes from the same root word as the word “salvage.” The Apostle Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Yet, some of us who have become new creations in Christ have also become battered along the way by the trials of this world and by the persistence of sin in our own lives. Like a piece of new furniture that has become water spotted and broken down through years of neglect and wrongful purposes, we have become broken down because of neglect and wrong.

The good news is that just as a talented craftsman can restore that old, battered piece of furniture, so God can restore one of His own dear children who have suffered neglect and misdirection in life.

First, we must see ourselves as God sees us. We must recognize the potential we have and the new function He wishes to employ in us. We must trust Him that when He puts the harsh paint remover to us, or the lye to clean us up, He is preparing us for new, wonderful service ahead.

Once we see the new beauty He brings forth in us, we will only want to praise and delight Him through a new obedience to His ways.

If you desire the restorative touch of God in your life today, let me suggest that you use the following words to instruct your prayers for restoration.

First from Psalm 23:3:

“He restores my soul.”

Next, from Psalm 52:12:

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Then, from Psalm 126:4:

“Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.”

Finally, from Joel 2:25 NKJV:

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”

Once, we see the lost splendor of our lives given new life and purpose, we will rejoice with the nineteenth century hymn-writer, Henry Lyte:

Praise my soul, the King of heaven,
to His feet your tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who, like me, His praise should sing?
Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise Him,
Praise Him, Praise the Everlasting King.



Monday, September 15, 2014

“The Cows are Out!”


[Photo of cows beside a swimming pool]

“You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.”
—Psalm 139:5

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant
places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
—Psalm 16:6

Usually the call came from my dad, frantically yelling into the house, “The cows are out!” That meant everyone had to jump into action and move out into the backyard, or road, or wherever the family herd had meandered.

Cows do not seem to have the intelligence that you would expect from animals that produce so much of our food. So, they quite frequently get themselves into serious trouble.

The cows, when out of the barn, or a fenced in area, have to be corralled and driven back where they belong. If the barn door gets accidently left open, or the gate gets broken down by weather or struck by a piece of farm equipment, the animals take that as an invitation to explore a world they have only observed from afar.

On the several farms my family members own, stray cows have been known to peer into house windows—even licking them repeatedly. They will stand ankle deep in freshly seeded lawns or flower gardens. And yes, they have even ended up in the family swimming pool.

Cows are curious creatures, and sometimes they just want to try new adventures. Sometimes it seems that they believe the grass might truly be greener and taste sweeter outside the fenced-in meadow.

Truthfully, in all too many cases, we’re not unlike those cows. Sometimes we just wander off. For no apparent reason we take advantage of an open gate and launch off into someplace we really shouldn’t go. We just drift away from the safety of God’s best place for us. We, like the cows, don’t see the warning signs—like speeding traffic or a pool of water eight feet deep.

How many times do we get dissatisfied with certain aspects of our own lives and take it upon ourselves to explore new vistas, even sinful ones we know will lead us down the wrong path. Discontent can provoke us to move into dangerous territory.

How do we avoid getting “outside” the boundary lines that God has assigned to us?

First of all, we need to stay close to our Heavenly Guardian. He will remind us, if we ask, that we are getting too near unhealthy and ungodly associations, temptations, or influences.

Secondly, we need to very insistently and very carefully watch out for ourselves. Proverbs 4 instructs us to guard instruction, guard our hearts, and pay close attention to our paths. We do this by staying close to God’s Word, and by remaining vigilant against the suggestions of our culture and our enemy, Satan, who 1 Peter 5:8 tells us:

“…prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

We should gratefully submit to the instructions of God’s Word, to His known will for us, and we should consistently trust His grace when we seem penned-in to some place where we would rather not live.

If we belong to Christ, when we do stray we can be assured that He diligently calls out His heavenly crew of angels to get us back inside the fence of His will. But, how much better for us and for our witness to the watching world, if we stay out of the places where we don’t belong—places of ruin that we can certainly avoid!



Monday, September 8, 2014

Out of Ashes


[Photo of a flower growing in a pile of ashes]

“[The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord] has anointed me…
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment
of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting
of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
—Isaiah 61:3

Sometimes it feels like all we have left to give the Lord are ashes. That which we had—that which seemed to be the best offering we could produce—has been burned and now gone. All we have to offer our God is brokenness and the burned up remains of a well-intentioned life.

We can find various stories of the lives of people who thought their world had ended, but then went on to do amazing things despite the burned out remnants of something seemingly lost.

Consider Beethoven, a man with the keenest sense of hearing, who composed exquisite music, but suffered complete deafness when he had so many songs yet to give the world. Despite the extreme loss, he composed the most well known and loved symphony, his Ninth, while totally deaf.

Think of Joni Earecksen Tada, a young girl with a promising knack for painting, who loved sitting next to her artist father with her crayons and imagination, dreaming of producing wonderful pictures. Then, she experienced a horrible diving accident, spent months in the hospital, and ended up a quadriplegic. She could have never known what God saw in her future, of the magnificent works of art created by colored pencils held between her teeth.

To Joni, and many others with severe limitations, these verses from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 must ring very true:

“But he [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Maybe something you depended on to give you the means to serve God has been taken from you. Maybe the dreams you had have vanished like smoke. Even so, be aware that God’s plan never gets thwarted. He wants to give you beauty for ashes, and hope where you have despair. He is able to produce in you something of His design.

Stay faithful, and you will soon see the beauty develop in ways you never imagined!



Monday, September 1, 2014

Taking Stock


[Photo of a female teacher holding a two-way radio]

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom…May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.”
—Psalm 90:12, 17

She was about my age at the time, almost fifty, and energetic, efficient, extremely competent. Now she was gone, dying all too quickly of a stroke.

Fran Jones was hired as our school system’s assistant superintendent, but she had served for the past school year as my school’s interim principal. We had often laughed together as we planned events for the school. She had won the hearts of all who worked with her, and said this was one of the happiest years of her career.

She had just begun a second year as an interim principal, this time at the Middle School, for what she hoped would be a short-term assignment. After a staff meeting, she fell ill and never recovered. She died several days later.

I guess that everybody has a clarifying moment like this, a time to reflect on his or her own life. This period in my life allowed Psalm 90 to take on new meaning. I wanted to make a difference, live for Christ as I never had before, to affect lives for the Kingdom. Fran’s death had made me more eager than ever to make certain I did not waste whatever time I may have left in my life.

Moses wrote this 90th Psalm. I wonder at what time in his life he wrote it: when he cared for sheep in the desert; or after the Lord had called him to lead His people out of Israel; or toward the end of Moses’ life, as he struggled with the nation in the wilderness?

Maybe Moses, too, saw someone important to him, vital, influential, and dying. Maybe he, too, wanted more than ever to be God’s servant with a significant ministry to His people.

If God has you pray the kind of prayer contained in Psalm 90, you can be sure that He has blessing ahead for you!



Monday, August 25, 2014

The Obi


[Photo of a Japanese obi]

“Make every effort to keep the unity of
the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
—Ephesians 4:3

Usually, when we think of Japanese traditional attire for women, we think of the kimono. As early as the 5th century, these “robes” were worn by unmarried women. The T-shaped garment, traditionally, is tied together using an obi. These can be formal or informal, wide or narrow, and of many various materials, depending on the usage.

On-line research at discloses the following:

There were two reasons for the obi: firstly, to maintain the aesthetic balance of the outfit, the longer sleeves needed a wider sash to accompany them; secondly, unlike today (where they are customary only for unmarried women) married ladies also wore long-sleeved kimono in the 1770s. The use of long sleeves without leaving the underarm open would have hindered movements greatly.

A woman's obi is worn in a fancy musubi knot. There are ten ways to tie an obi, and different knots are suited to different occasions and different kimono.

There are many different types of women's obi, and the usage of them is regulated by many unwritten rules not unlike those that concern the kimono itself. Certain types of obi are used with certain types of kimono; the obi of married and unmarried women are tied in different ways. Often the obi adjusts the formality and fanciness of the whole kimono outfit: the same kimono can be worn in very different situations depending on what kind of obi is worn with it.

So, we see that the obi ties everything together with consideration for balance, beauty, and the movement of the person wearing the kimono.

What a perfect picture of unity in the body of Christ. Though we see many different manifestations of Christ’s Body, the Church, God blesses His people with the sash of peace that holds everything together in balance and beauty.

In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ has called us to peace. The Ephesians passage quoted at the beginning of this blog post goes on to say, in Ephesians 4:4:

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.

Are we married to Christ? Then our “garments” of His righteousness should be evident to all. Just as the obi of a Japanese woman speaks of her marital status, so should the peace which binds Christians together speal of our relationship with our Savior.

In this world of constant noise and strife, peace marks Christians, too. As Psalm 133:1 states:

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.

May this unity bind and beautify the body of Christ!



Monday, August 18, 2014

Doing Good


[Photo of Jesus healing a blind man]

“You know how…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
—Acts 10:37-38

Jesus showed His power wherever He went—not for personal aggrandizement, but for the good of everyone He met. We read in the gospels that He never went anywhere but what people with all kinds of problems would come to Him for help.

I find it interesting that the verse above from Acts 10 speaks of power twice. One kind is the power of the devil, and the other that of God. The devil only intends harm with his power. He only brings heartbreak and destruction—of physical, mental, and emotional health. Though we read in Scripture that he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He cannot be trusted and we should all be wary of his trickery.

In stark contrast with the devil’s activities, before Jesus left earth for His heavenly home, He told His disciples that this same power that He used in going about doing good would be theirs to use in doing even greater good. In John 14:12, Jesus said:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

He promised the power of the Holy Spirit to His followers so that they might tell others about Him and use His means to do good to others. (Acts 1:8). We have been given all we need to continue Jesus’ work in our world.

I know people who travel the world teaching the Word of God. I know people who befriend friendless people and bless their lives. I know others who constantly seek ways to build people up and supply them with encouragement.

Do you know people of faith who “go around doing good?” Do you see the power of Christ in their works and their words? This same power is available to you, and God expects you, with your unique gifts, to share His goodness with all you know for His glory.

What an awesome privilege is ours to go out each day in Christ’s name and in His power to obey His last wishes on earth! Let us pray that God will use us in this world alongside His other children to bring good to others, and to lift up His name to them.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Too Much Help


[Photo of little girls holds unripen vegetables in her arms]

“Not by works of righteousness which we have
done, but according to His mercy He saved us,
through the washing of regeneration
and renewing of the Holy Spirit…”
—Titus 3:5

How often do you run across current opinion that God will accept us if we have “lived a good life, helped others, and done our best?” Most people think that will accrue them enough favor to get them into Heaven when the time comes. They would offer the best “fruits” of a life they have lived trying to be the best they could be.

This kind of thinking reminds me of a child who goes out into the garden and picks green tomatoes thinking she is doing her mother a favor. How God must laugh at our similar offering. We have brought Him what we thought was our best. But, He lets us know through His word that all by ourselves we can’t please Him enough to win His favor. We are flawed and sinful creatures from birth. Our best gifts will never suffice to take away the filth of our sin.

Only Jesus, perfect and sent from the Father, could serve as the “propitiation”—the perfect sacrificing atonement—for our sins. Nothing we can do will ever be enough to gain us entry into God’s Kingdom. He says to us, “Please, friend, I would rather do it myself!” We have but to fall at His feet with gratitude for what He has done for us through His Son and present to Him our plea for an outpouring of His mercy, grace, and love.

This same kind of “helpfulness” on the part of the little girl sometimes also plays into Christians’ lives. We think we can serve God without His direction or without the guidance of His Spirit. We come up with grand schemes to serve Him, which He would also much rather do for Himself.

Take the story of David, for instance. In 1 Chronicles 17, we read that after David was settled in his own palace, he spoke with his friend, Nathan the prophet. He lamented that God was still “living” in a tent—the tabernacle that had been the worship place since Israel left Egypt. David wanted to build a house for God.

David drew up plans and thought he could do something for God that would significantly honor and bless God before David died. However, we read that God had other plans. David’s ideas were premature, not what God wanted at all. Here the story expresses God’s marvelous overwhelming grace to David.

God tells David that his son Solomon will build the temple, and that God has a far bigger plan for David than he ever imagined. This is what God said to him, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 17:8-10:

“Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed…I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you.”

Wow! Like our little veggie picker, God says, “You thought you had a wonderful meal for me. No, just wait awhile. I have a wonderful meal of ripe red tomatoes, perfectly grown and harvested on which you may feast. I know best the time and method to bring about what you wish. Wait on Me!”



Monday, August 4, 2014

Overflowing Blessing


[Photo of a china cup with coffee or tea running over the top]

“Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.”
—Proverbs 11:11

Does God’s blessing overflow to others like a cup overflows into the saucer? Apparently it does.

Joseph, son of Jacob, who served in Potiphar’s household, was blessed by God with favor and success in everything he did, but God also blessed Potiphar, as recorded in Genesis 39:5:

The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

In the life of Daniel, the commander of the king’s guard intended to execute the wise men of Babylon because they could not interpret the king’s dreams. Because God’s blessing rested on Daniel, and because God gave him the answer to the king’s questions, Daniel pled with the commander not to execute the wise men. Instead, as recorded in Daniel 2:24, the king put Daniel in charge of all the wise men of Babylon.

The Apostle Paul, on a ship bound for Rome, found himself in a deadly shipwreck. The crew had given up all hope of being saved. In Acts 27:24, Paul announced to them what God had told him:

“Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”

Think about times when God has graciously spared you from an automobile accident. Did He not also spare others whom you didn’t even know? Have you been the recipient of blessing because God had His good hand on a Christian employer of yours, or a public school teacher, or someone else whom God placed in a position of authority over you?

Eugene Peterson, in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, makes this statement:

Blessing has inherent in it the power to increase. It functions by sharing and delight in life. 1

When Christians live under God’s blessing, those around them enjoy the positive effects of that blessing.

Ask God today for His blessing, and watch to see how He blesses others around you, too!


1 Peterson, Eugene. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Hide and Seek


[Photo of a boy hiding in the bushes]

“‘You will seek me and find me when you
seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.”
—Jeremiah 29:13-14

“Ready or not, here I come!”

Most anyone who hears those words will remember playing Hide and Seek as a child. On warm summer evenings it was fun to play outside where you could find any manner of wonderful places to get out of sight while the person who was “it” counted to whatever number the group had set.

If you could stump the person looking you felt clever. But, if the search went on too long, you could get bored and wish they would hurry up and find you.

God shows us His mysterious Person by telling us to seek Him. He is not always evident. Yet, He wants us to seek until we find Him. The better we get to know Him, and the closer we stick to His Word, the easier it becomes to find Him.

It was no fun as a child to hide and have no one look for you. It was no fun to desire to play the game and have no one want to play with you. That never happens in this “seeking God” game of life.

God delights to be found. When we see Him in another person, when He answers a prayer for us, or when He brings us a wonderful surprise we know could only come from His hand, we know we have found Him.

The Prophet Isaiah writes these words in Isaiah 55:6:

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

God wants us to seek Him. He invites us to do so. He very much wants us to play this amazing “game.” But, we can only find Him when we live close to Him and search for Him. And, like children, the more we play this special “game,” the more often we will find Him.

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know You,
a heart to seek You,
wisdom to find You,
conduct pleasing to You,
faithful perseverance in waiting for You,
and a hope of finally embracing You.
—Thomas Aquinas



Monday, July 21, 2014

Family Ties


[Photo of three girls of different races]

“You received the spirit of sonship.
And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
—Romans 8:15

“For those God foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”
—Romans 8:29

You could see the shock on their faces. My friend, Carrie, had brought her sixth graders to my music class. She hesitated with her arm around me before she left the room and said, “You know, boys and girls, Mrs. Wilson and I are sisters.”

Now clearly these children had a hard time swallowing this information because of my white skin and Carrie’s brown skin. They looked at me and asked, “Really?” to which I affirmed her statement. Big pause. Then quickly, before she left, Carrie said with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, “Same Father!”

We laugh at such fun with the kids. But, the truth of God’s Word teaches that all who belong to God through the Lord Jesus Christ relate to each other as brothers and sisters in Him. We should carry the same family resemblance as our Father. Those around us should see the special “family ties” when we live and work and worship together.

How often do denominational differences, life-style, political preferences, and, sadly, even racial differences drive wedges between us as Christians. These unnecessary self-imposed barriers keep us from living out what God intended, as reflections of His mercy, grace, and love?

Carrie and I genuinely complimented each other when we worked together. She displayed the qualities of the extrovert and friend to all. While I displayed the qualities of the introvert, thoughtful, and logical one.

Together, we fit perfectly together just like pieces in some great puzzle that God has called together to complete His image in the world. We prayed together, encouraged one another, and, hopefully, gave those who knew our “family connection” a healthy picture of Christ’s work in our lives.

Remember, no matter what kind of natural, cultural, or other differences we may display, when Christ holds first place at the very center of our lives, Christians’ family ties should become evident to all who look at us from a watching world. Christ wants this kind of witness from our lives. As He states in John 13:35:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”



Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mysterious Queen of Sheba


[Drawing of the Queen of Sheba]

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment
with this generation and condemn it; for she came
from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s
wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”
—Matthew 12:42

This intriguing queen from a story in 1 Kings 10 not only was mentioned in the Old Testament, but also in Ethiopian legends as well. She was known as a searcher for truth, and had heard about Solomon’s fame and his relation to the name of the Lord. She traveled with a large caravan of camels loaded with spices, gold and precious stones to ply Solomon with her questions.

Solomon, traditionally known as the wisest man who ever lived, welcomed this Queen from the area we now know as Yemen. He answered all her questions, welcomed her into the royal palace, and entertained her at his table with all the attention of servants and cupbearers. She also accompanied Solomon to the temple where he made burnt offerings to the Lord and where she saw the worship of the one true God.

Anyone would have been impressed by the wealth and achievements of Solomon. But as recorded in 1 Kings 10:9, she responded to what she had seen by saying:

Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.

This woman, with her thirst for spiritual things, recognized the Lord God in all of Solomon’s blessings. She hungered for truth and found it. Jesus Himself acknowledged her recognition of truth, and condemned those from His generation who couldn’t see the legitimacy of His kingdom, even when the Truth walked among them.

Jesus welcomes all who truly seek truth. He who is “the way, the truth, and the life” is no respecter of persons. As He clearly said in Matthew 7:7-8:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Just as King Solomon welcomed this questioning woman from a faraway land, Jesus waits to answer your questions and reveal Himself to you. Maybe it’s not so bad to have someone say to you, “Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?”



Monday, July 7, 2014

Inky Blackness


[Drawing of the big fish vomiting Jonah up on shore]

“You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart
of the seas, and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers swept over me.”
—Jonah 2:3

Have you ever been in complete darkness? The closest most of us come to that is a tour of an underground cavern or walking in an unlighted tunnel at night. We might grasp for the wall to keep our equilibrium, but we do not know where we’ve been or where we’re going.

Jonah had a most unique experience with darkness. After disobeying God and being tossed into the sea by a boatload of reluctant sailors, a great fish swallowed him alive and he stayed in the belly of this fish for three days and three nights. What’s the difference in night and day in a place like that anyway?

God had Jonah where he could not escape. God must have known that was the only place where Jonah would wake up to the requests his God was making of him and recognize his responsibility to Him. In Jonah’s astounding prayer from the fish’s belly, as recorded in Jonah 2:9, he finally cried:

But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.

Does God also have you in a place where He waits for you to “cry Uncle”? We know from this story that God takes advantage of the places and circumstances that will turn us to Him. I don’t believe God willingly creates circumstances like this, for Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:33:

He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

You know the famous line parents often give when punishing a child: “This will hurt me more than it hurts you.” God sees your plight if you have found yourself in a dark place with no way out and not a clue what to do. He understands and has compassion on you. Be reminded of Jonah. Though he went through utter distress, God knew all along the circumstances He would use to get Jonah back on track with His plan.

God wants us to trust Him in the dark. He alone has the means to rescue us. He wants us to believe in His power and in His will to do just that!



Monday, June 30, 2014



[Photo of a boy at a piano]

 “ Perseverance must finish its work so that you may
be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ”
 —James 1:4

In my many years of teaching, particularly when I dealt with private music students, I found that some children—and parents!—balked at the idea of the necessary time devoted to practice. Some actually thought that they should be able to come to lessons and that would suffice for them to learn to play the piano, or whatever instrument they tried to learn.

This kind of approach for learning how to play an instrument never works. The students make no progress. Every lesson ends up nearly like the first. These students clearly don’t take their music lessons seriously. They do not understand that practice makes all the difference in growth.

Very much like a dedicated music teacher, God wants His children to make progress in the faith. Just as coming to a weekly lesson without practice fails to equip a young person to become a musician, coming to church once a week—or less—never produces mature believers either. As recorded in 2 Peter 3:18 God expects His children to:

“…grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Proverbs 2:1-5 records Solomon, in teaching his son, encouraged him saying:

“…store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Paul, in teaching young Timothy, spoke these words, as recorded in 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV:

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Paul wasn’t even with Timothy to teach him when this was written in a letter. Timothy obviously had “homework” to do.

Our homework, or “practice,” helps make us mature followers of Christ. Such growth takes place over a very long time—a lifetime, in fact.

There is no short cut. Private Bible study, reading books by wise Christians, and prayer, journaling, fasting, and other Christian disciplines will develop faith over time. We should clearly understand that we must diligently apply our hearts and minds to becoming all God has made us to be!



Monday, June 23, 2014

False Advertising


[Photo of a Potato Chip Ad]

 “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,
to mind your own business and to work with
your hands, just as we told you, so that your
daily life may win the respect of outsiders and
so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
 —1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

I remember the unpleasant experience of driving behind a small car which spewed a pungent odor into the air. The car sported on its rear bumper a slogan which read, “Protect the Environment!” Years later, while waiting at a stop light, I saw a very dirty white van drive by with the business name on the side, “Compulsive Cleaners.”

Both of these experiences reminded me that, as Christians who shouldn’t be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, we ought always to live according to the brand we carry. When we slip-up or sin, we bring shame on the Lord to whom we belong. Though we often do sin, we should set an example of humility and Christ”s love to others by confessing our sins and seeking to make things right.

Recognizing the tightness of the bond that binds us to our Savior, Paul admonished the Ephesians—and us as well—in Ephesians 4:1-2:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

People watch Christians to see whether their lives stack up to their confession. Those on the outside of the church like to complain that the Body of Christ is full of hypocrites. We should be careful to not stoke that fire!

We can accomplish the goal of truth in our “advertising” by coming to the Lord in humility every morning, confessing that we can never live the Christ-life without Him.

We desperately need God’s Holy Spirit to indwell and control us throughout every day, so that our lives, like a book that others read, will be lived to the praise of His glory!



Monday, June 16, 2014

Slaying the Dragon


[Photo of a dragon breathing down fire]

 “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
 —James 4:7

David and Karen Mains, in their marvelous children’s book, Tales of the Kingdom, 1 tell a story of Amanda, a princess, who, despite warnings, takes home a dragon egg, hatches it, and makes a pet of the baby dragon. At first she enjoys playing with the little guy and does everything she can to domesticate it. But, before she realizes it, the dragon has become much too formidable for her to control and she has to kill it to save her own life.

Private sins are like that. We try to housebreak them and keep them under our control. Our secret fantasies, the so-called minor offenses we hide and whitewash, never stay the same. Like the dragon, they grow too large for us. The gossip we share with just one friend becomes too easy to share with many more. The anger we allow to spill out in occasional verbal outbursts at others soon becomes a way of life.

Recently I read this quote from J. C. Ryle in the book, Diamonds in the Dust 2 by Joni Eareckson Tada:

“We are too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself in its true colors. Never when we are tempted will we hear sin say to us, ‘I am your deadly enemy…I want to ruin your life.’ That’s not how it works. Sin, instead, comes to us like Judas with a kiss. It comes to us like Joab with outstretched hands and flattering words. Sin, in its beginnings, seems harmless enough—like David walking idly on his palace roof which happened to overlook the bedroom of a woman. You and I may give wickedness smooth-sounding names, but we cannot alter its nature and character in the sight of God.”

We need to remember that the dragon has a burning breath and a dangerous tail. When we first entertain the idea of letting him near us, or even domesticating him for our pleasure, we need to slam the door on him and flee.

We can never hope to serve God effectively with known sins in our lives. The longer we let them grow, the more attached we become to them, and the harder it gets to slay them.

Please pray with me:

Oh, Lord, give us Your Holy Spirit power to recognize the first sign of a deadly sin and flee from it. Help us stay close to You, hour by hour, so that we can be protected by Your loving arms and have the power You give to resist the devil. Amen.


1 Mains, David and Karen. Tales of the Kingdom (Kingdom Tales, Book 1). Elgin, IL: David C. Cook Publishing Company, ©1983, Chapter 10.
2 Tada, Joni Eareckson. Diamonds in the Dust. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ©1993, Devotional for June 8th.



Monday, June 9, 2014

Loaded Wagons


[Photo of a horse-drawn wagon]

 “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits.”
 —Psalm 68:19

This time of year reminds me of the June days of my childhood when one farm wagon after another would come back to the barn loaded with fresh hay. Even if the winter had been especially long or cold and the spring wet and windy, these days made up for it with the green grass and the beautiful blue skies.

This mental picture calls to my mind the words of Charles Spurgeon’s when he writes of the dreaded clouds and rain, the dark skies and dull days. These same days of rain and clouds yield for us rich stores of God’s grace. Spurgeon reminds us:

“Our Lord’s love letters often come to us in black-edged envelopes. His wagons rumble, but they are loaded with benefits.” 1

Our God loves to make glorious results from our heavy trials, to teach us His grace in our struggles and pain, and to fill us up with joy in His ability to load us up with blessings.

Many years ago, when faced with a trial, I remember how a particular hymn 2 moved me to trust God in faith. That hymn says:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour:
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.

Bind unbelief is sure to err,
and scan His work in vain:
God is His own interpreter,
and He will make it plain.

Be encouraged, my friend. The Lord sees the bright days ahead and wants you to trust that He will bring them to pass!


1 Spurgeon, Charles H. Faith’s Checkbook. Seaside, OR: Watchmaker Publishing. © 2013. Devotional for May 21st.
2 Cowper, William. God Moves in a Mysterious Way. Public Domain.