Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Wish

On this foggy morning in the foothills of the mountains, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas! God wanted us to know what love looked like, so He sent us Jesus, a priceless gift. May you know the fullness of God's love for you this Christmas, stay wrapped up in His peace and comfort, and delight in the joy He brings!

"Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, God with us" (Matthew 1 :23 NKJV). May "Immanuel-God with us" be your light and your constant companion! God bless you and keep you! Merry Christmas, Katy

Friday, November 30, 2012

Good Might

I love T9. My cousin who is a junior in college taught me how to use it. It made life simpler, or at least, it made texting easier. I still have a flip phone that’s a few years old, and to text I have to use T9 or Alpha. Alpha requires that I push the same button until the right letter appears—a time consumer. T9 guesses the right word as I type.

Sometimes it guesses wrong. Like the time when I told a friend that I was “shaking” someone up, instead of “picking” them up. However, my favorite time that it suggests the wrong word is when I text “good night” to my friends. The first word it suggests for “night” is “might.” So if I didn’t change the word, I would be saying “Good might!” to them. Not a bad idea.
In Joshua 1:9, God charged Joshua to “be strong and of good courage” (NKJV). Joshua would need some “good might” as he led God’s people from the wilderness into the Promised Land. What do we need “good might” to do today? Whatever we’re facing or whatever job God has given us, we can depend on the One whose might never runs out. God promised Joshua that He would never leave him (Joshua 1:5), and He promises us the same thing (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). However large or small the task is ahead of us, God can enable us to do it with a strength that endures, a courage that prevails, a love that empowers, and a joy that sustains.

So tonight I want to leave you with a special message, and I pray that God enables you to walk courageously with Him and in His strength that never runs out:
Good Might!

“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29 NKJV).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Safe in the Potter's Hands

The wheel began to spin. The potter dipped his hands into water and pressed them into the center of the clay, creating a deep bowl. With a wooden tool called a “rib,” he gently raised the sides of the bowl to produce a vase. With slow, graceful movements, he created ridges and curves in the vase, fashioning a work of art. Because of his skill and experience, he did all this in less than a minute.  
I watched this process, in awe of how confidently the potter worked. I was uncertain how a lump of gray, formless clay could turn into something beautiful. But the potter knew. The picture he must have envisioned in his mind easily became reality as he applied his hands to the clay and molded it into something others would find lovely and useful.

Part of the process intrigued me more than the rest. As the potter made the clay bowl taller and gave it shape, he trimmed away the excess clay he didn’t need. But hardly any clay was wasted. He saved the excess in a bucket to use later.
God is a master potter. He takes empty, broken hearts and makes them new and whole. He shapes our hearts and character to be like His Son, beautiful and “useful for the Master” (2 Timothy 2:21 NKJV). He works with confidence, fashioning us into the image He has in mind—full of love, strength, goodness, and the ability to make a difference.

Nothing is wasted. However God trims away the “excess” from our hearts and minds, He uses all of our experiences for good (Romans 8:28). The trials and tests we go through trim away the attitudes and desires that will only damage our lives and mar the work of art God is making. Our trials may put pressure on us and squeeze us, but God won’t let the trials break us beyond repair. He is waiting for us to look to Him and respond in the right way. In the Potter’s hands, we are safe, because He loves us so much and He never lets us bear more than what we can handle. He uses both the hard times and the good times to mold our character, build our faith, and strengthen our resolve. In God’s hands, we become beautiful reflecting the love of Christ, and we become vessels that He can use to touch those around us.  
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 NKJV).

If you ever have the chance to visit Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, visit the Old Mill Square and its pottery shop! Or check out their website at http://www.oldmillsquare.com/pottery.htm.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Prayer for a Nation

I wonder what the next four years will hold. On the eve of America's presidential election, I want to offer up a prayer for our country. Whatever happens, God reigns over the kingdoms of men, and His rule will last forever (Daniel 4:32b, 34b). He knows how things will turn out. May we pray for our country, have strong voices for what is right, and make a difference wherever we are.

Dear Father, I pray that Your hand would be over our elections, and that we would vote based on godly convictions and values. Help us to be strong individually and collectively, to be voices of truth in the world and ambassadors of Your love. In Jesus' name, Amen.

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority..." (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

You Are My Trust

I was too excited to settle down. When I was fifteen years old, I attended a Bible camp in Brazil. The leaders of the camp had told us that morning to find a place alone somewhere and have a quiet time. But I was anxious to see my friends.  

On that beautiful morning in Brazil, I searched for the perfect quiet time spot. I stopped to say hello to one of my friends even though he had already started reading his Bible. I asked him what he was reading. Since it was in Psalms, I told him Psalm 71:5 was one of my favorite verses. He turned to it and read it out loud: “For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth” (Psalm 71:5 NKJV). He looked up at me and said something I wasn’t expecting: “But you’re still in your youth.” He was right. We were just fifteen. But all the experiences I had had with God up to that point made me certain that my hope was found in Him and He was Someone I could trust forever and ever.   

Some of us come to know God at an early age. Others believe in Him as a teenager or adult. But the moment our relationship with God begins, we start building a history with Him. We learn who He is, how He acts, and how we can relate to Him. We see Him at work in our lives, taking care of us, providing for us, and comforting us when we were at our wit’s end. We come to understand His love more fully and seek to grow in our love for Him and for others. The history we build with God helps us to trust Him for both the present and the future.

The Bible has many examples of people trusting God. David trusted God for the victory over Goliath because he had seen God give him victory over the lion and the bear (1 Samuel 17:37). Joshua led the Israelites to the Promised Land because he had seen God bring them out of Egypt. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego believed that God could protect them in the fiery furnace, and He did. Even if He hadn’t, they chose to pledge their allegiance to the one true God and worship Him alone, rather than bow down to anyone else (Daniel 3:17-18).
Testimonies like these, along with the ways we see God at work today, teach us who He is and how we can trust Him with the biggest dreams and concerns of life or with the smallest problems. It’s been fifteen years since my friend read Psalm 71:5 to me, and the verse is as true today as it was back then. And more so. Today I have even more reason to know that God is our light in the darkest night and our hope when we feel like giving up. I have learned that His love and faithfulness never waver. Wherever you are in your walk with God, may He be the light that guides your steps, the hope that uplifts your spirit, and the trust that strengthens your heart.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Every Moment

Every moment is a treasure, something we will never live again. When I was younger, time seemed to move so slowly. But now that I'm thirty, the moments fly by—until I sit still and think about who God is and remember His goodness. Then I can savor each moment.

I wrote this prayer twelve years ago, the year I graduated from high school. I can't believe it's been that long. So many moments have transpired between then and now—good ones, difficult ones, surprising ones—and God was there in each of them. This prayer reflects God's goodness to us in our daily lives. When we have Him, we have what we need to walk victoriously through life, and we have Someone to know and love forever.

Every moment You love me.
Every moment You are with me.
Every moment Your heart is full of kindness and strength.
Every moment I have Your blessing of grace.
Every moment I have Your promise of victory.
Every moment You fight for me.
Every moment of every day is an adventure with You.
Every moment of my life is beautiful because You are beautiful and You are my life.

Thank You, God, for being with us every moment and filling each day with Your love and grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

God's Little Reminders

It appeared in my Inbox. A picture of a knight clad in armor and a devotion came to my email yesterday. I had posted the devotion about six months ago. But I had no idea my blog was going to send it to my subscribers and myself a second time. I'm glad it did. I needed to read it again. You see, I am making the final edits on my first book, and I've set a deadline for myself that I wondered if I could keep. The book has been waiting a while for me to finish it. I thought it was nearly finished some time ago, but when God impresses on your heart that you need to do something, you can't let go of it. Not until it's done.

So yesterday, I think God sent me an email, a reminder that He can give the victory, that He can enable us to do whatever it is He has called us to do. In Christ, we are more than conquerors as Romans 8:37 reassures us. If I needed to hear this again, maybe it will speak to you, too. With Jesus' help, we can gain a surpassing victory!

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37 NKJV).

The list is formidable. Those things that try to stop us or hinder our forward progress in life are forbidding—tribulation, distress, persecution, death, angels and principalities and powers, things present or to come, height and depth. Romans Chapter 8 tells us that none of these things can separate us from God’s love. They may try to harass us, slow us down, or stop us, but they are nothing compared to the awesome power and love of our God.

You are more than a conqueror. In Christ, we are more than conquerors when we follow Christ’s leadership and stay under His protection and blessing. In Romans 8:37, “more than conquerors” means “to gain a surpassing victory,”1 implying an “unusually excellent”2 victory. In Christ, a surpassing victory is possible because He has won the ultimate victory and possesses ultimate power. Jesus broke Satan’s power over us on the cross (Heb 2:14), and Satan’s power is restrained in the world today (2 Thess 2:7). One day Christ will render Satan powerless forever (Rev 20:10). He also defeats enemies like anger, fear, and selfishness, and gives us victory over struggles and temptations. However great the trial is that we face at the moment, Christ’s victory and power are greater. Through Him we rise above persecution, heartaches, sicknesses, struggles, and other burdens, so that they don’t control us because we know God controls all things. Burdens and problems don’t have to be what defines us and sets the tone of our lives. God and His victory can.
When you face something that seems overwhelming, remember where the surpassing victory is found—in a union and partnership with Christ. He fights for us, and enables us to do our part to win the victory, even if it has to be won every day. In Him, we defeat those things that plague us, and we have a Champion who is always by our side.

1Larry Pierce, The Online Bible, CD-ROM (Winterbourne, Ontario: Larry Pierce, 2007), Romans 8:37.
2Webster’s New World College Dictionary,  4th ed. (Cleveland, Ohio: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008), 1441.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting Ready for the "Midnight Cry"

I sang my way home last Saturday night. I love singing my former church’s version of “Midnight Cry.” Just as I was singing about Jesus stepping onto a cloud to call God’s children home, I looked to my left and saw the setting sun blazing between two mountainous clouds. The scene matched the song as perfectly as anything on earth could, and I just had to thank God.  

Imagine what it will look like when Jesus comes back to call us home. We’ll hear the trumpet, and see Him in His glory. We will “meet the Lord in the air,” and always be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17 NKJV). We’ll be home. I can’t wait. But then again, maybe I can.
While we are still here on earth, living and breathing, we have the chance to tell people about the Savior, to tell them about the God who loves them so much and gave His Son for them. We don’t know when Jesus will come back, but with the time we have left, let’s tell as many people as we can about our Lord. We are His ambassadors of light and love on the earth. Let’s share His truth and heart of love with others, so they have the chance to know Him, too. Let’s take with us as many people to heaven as we can, so that the skies are filled when it’s time to go home!

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:16-17 NKJV).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Our Independence Day-In Christ

“We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our independence day!”

The crowd roared at the president’s declaration. This was not the time for fear. Not the time to give up. Every July 4th, my family watches Independence Day starring Will Smith who plays a fighter pilot and Bill Pullman who plays the American president. In one of the most climatic scenes of the movie, the president rallies the troops—civilian pilots who must attack an alien ship over fifteen miles in diameter. They survived the first worldwide alien attack, but if they fail this mission, everyone will die. So Pullman calls them not to let humanity die without a fight. They are joining other survivors across the globe to fight for what’s left of their cities and countries. July 4th becomes more than just an American holiday. It becomes a day for the world to declare its independence from the threat of extinction and to defeat a formidable enemy.
As Christians, we deal with formidable enemies every day. Fear plagues our peace, anger steals our joy, and selfishness distorts our focus. The world opposes God’s ways, Satan seeks to hinder God’s work in our lives, and sin tempts us to leave God’s path for something easier or faster. We can feel oppression from within or without, and fall back into spiritual bondage even though we have true freedom in Christ. But God calls us not to give up the fight, not to vanish quietly into the night.

Some things are worth fighting for—our own spiritual well-being and relationship with God, the influence we can have on those around us, other people’s well-being, and the spread of God’s love and the gospel. Sin and Satan may try to trap us in bondage and choke our freedom in Christ, but God calls us to liberty. He has freed us from sin’s controlling influence (Romans 6:5-7) and from Satan’s dominion (Colossians 1:13). He no longer wants us to be burdened by sin (Hebrews 12:1) or hindered by guilt (Romans 8:1). Since Jesus has set us free, we are free indeed (John 8:36).
In Christ we can declare our independence from sin and guilt, from fear and anger, from selfishness and worldly influences. In Christ, we don’t have to just survive; we can excel. God has great things in store for us, and other souls need to be rescued. Other hearts need to experience the freedom found in Christ. Don’t “vanish without a fight.” Stand your ground. Stand in the freedom you possess in Christ.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1 NKJV).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Joining Voices

I turned 30 today. I was eager to see what music my church would play on my birthday. Our worship leader picked one of my all-time favorite songs—Revelation Song, one that I feel beautifully describes God’s awesome power and glory, and praises Him for them. When I hear that song on the radio, on my computer, or at church, I want to sing it with all that I am.

Today I tried. I had to keep it toned down a little, because we were in close quarters in the assembly room. But I sang it from the heart. When the chorus started, my voice matched the pitch and sound of the worship leader’s—something she couldn’t hear but I could. The sound was clear and solid. It got me thinking. When we share what we know of Jesus with other people, we are joining voices with other believers to proclaim the love and good news of Christ. God doesn’t build lone stars. He builds teams. As believers, we are a part of a team that stretches all the way around the world, and we share the same truth and worship the same God. We can use our voices to worship our Lord and to be His spokesmen on earth. We can use our voices to reach out to the lost and to strengthen the saved.
Are you using your voice? Whoever you are, you have a voice that can make a difference. In your sphere of influence, look for ways to have a strong voice for God. The world needs to hear our song.

“You who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9 NKJV).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lessons from Quest for Celestia: You're Beautiful

Last week I painted a scene for you from Steven James’ book Quest for Celestia, the story of two travelers headed to the city of the noble king. I could “paint” for you a whole art gallery of scenes from the book, and give you the principles I learned from them. But I encourage you to discover these lessons for yourself and enjoy the adventure that Kadin and Leira took to Celestia, experiencing their fears and joys and sharing their victories.

The last scene I want to paint for you centers on Leira, Kadin’s companion on the journey. But let me give you a little background on her first. The first time Kadin met Leira, he was in danger. They both were. A servant of the evil baron had convinced Kadin to leave the path to Celestia and seek refuge in the baron’s castle. Just when Kadin was ready to follow him, Leira called to him from some underbrush, warning him not to go. When he saw her, he thought she was lovely, except for the bruises that covered her face. Later he learned that the evil baron had captured her, locked her up in his dungeon, and allowed his guards to abuse her. She had managed to escape, and fate, it would seem, brought Kadin and Leira together. They needed each other, not just to survive the danger, but to be each other’s friend at a time when few were leaving everything to find Celestia.   

The dream Leira had on the journey taught me something beautiful. She dreamt she was invited by the prince himself to come to a grand dance at his castle. One of his servants took her to a room filled with beautiful dresses, fit for a princess, and told her to choose one. She selected a gorgeous silk dress and tried it on—the perfect fit. However, when she looked in the mirror, she only saw the bruises on her face. The dress didn’t matter. Shortly after she met Kadin, healing water had erased the bruises, but now they were back.

Leira wouldn’t leave the room. The servant called for her to come—the prince was waiting. But she didn’t want him to see her like this. Finally, someone came to the door. It was the prince. When he entered, Leira hid her face and fell to the floor. She told him she couldn’t come, not looking like she did. He helped her up and looked into her face, brushing the tears from her eyes. He said, “I see only beauty.” Leira turned to look in the mirror, and the bruises weren’t there anymore! She could see herself as the prince did, beautiful and transformed.*

Different things affect the way we see ourselves—people’s opinions, our own struggles and trials, our past regrets, and what other people have done to us. If we could look in a mirror and see our hearts, we may see damage that's been caused by ourselves and others. But when the Prince takes us in His arms and holds us close, we can be healed of past wounds. When we believe in Jesus as our Savior, He takes our sins and exchanges them for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). When the heavenly Father looks at us, He doesn’t see a face covered in bruises, but a heart that’s been rescued by the Savior. God sees us “in Christ,” redeemed from our sin, no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1).

Jesus also works in our lives so that we experience His healing on a practical level—in our perspectives, our attitudes, our words, and our actions. When God looks at us, He may see the hurts, but He also sees the beauty that’s blooming in our souls.

Have you experienced God’s healing? How do you see yourself? Do you see only “bruises”? Or do you see the beauty that you have because Christ lives in you, and because He is working in your heart to make you whole and sound on the inside? You’re beautiful, Beloved. Your Prince says so.

Check out Quest for Celestia! Available through amazon.com


*Steven James, Quest for Celestia (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2012), page 189.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lessons from Quest for Celestia: Take My Hand

Last week I made my way through a death-infested swamp, a dragon-inhabited cave, a mob-filled city, and a danger-filled forest. I traveled with two companions—Kadin, a teenage boy determined to find the city of Celestia, and Leira, a spunky but tender teenage girl. It took me just a few days to read Quest for Celestia, written by Steven James, an award-winning author and someone I’ve been privileged to meet a couple of times. I am normally a movie person, but this book captured me.

Quest for Celestia, a novel based on John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, chronicles the journey of two “vagabonds,” or travelers, headed to the land of the ancient kings, to the city of the noble King Kiral. Evils and dangers attempt to keep Kadin and Leira from reaching the city. Just as The Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory of a Christian’s journey through this world toward heaven, Quest for Celestia pictures some of the dangers we encounter in our journey here on earth, along with the victories we can win with our King’s help.
I want to paint for you a particular scene from the book, one that taught me how to handle fearful and tempting thoughts. Toward the beginning of their journey, Kadin and Leira had to follow the path to Celestia through a cave located deep within the heart of a mountain. In almost complete darkness, they inched their way along one side of the cave to avoid falling into a pit in the middle. They grew anxious when they saw two lights coming toward them. They hoped it wasn’t the evil baron’s men. As the lights drew closer, they saw it was a man and a woman running as fast as they could, each carrying a torch. The couple slowed down as they approached, and the women warned them, “Voices.” The couple had heard voices from the pit, and decided to turn back. Kadin and Leira tried to persuade the couple to travel with them, but they wouldn’t listen. They handed Kadin a torch. The voices and the dangers were too much for them, and they gave up on their journey.

Kadin and Leira continued walking, now with a torch to guide their steps. They traveled in silence for a long time, until they heard them—the voices. More like screams. They came from the pit, and with the light of the torch Kadin could see a curtain separating the real world from the next. Against the curtain were faces, wanting to be freed. Eerie shadows reached through the curtain, trying to grab Kadin and Leira as they passed. Then Kadin began to see things on the path that weren’t there. He wondered if he was walking in a nightmare. A single voice whispered to him fears and tormenting thoughts—thoughts of giving up and thoughts of doing terrible things. He asked the “Giver of Dreams” to take these nightmares away, and he asked Leira if he could hold her hand. She asked him why, and he replied, “I need to know what’s real.”*
When the voice of the enemy whispers fears and temptations to our minds, Jesus beckons us, “Take My hand.”  The enemy’s voice can grow so overwhelming in our minds, that we wonder what’s real and what’s not. His threats and lies can frighten us until we don’t want to take another step. His temptations can lure us off God’s path, and his discouragement can cause us to give up. We can feel like we’re caught in a nightmare. But when we take hold of Jesus’ hand, we will know what’s real. Holding onto Jesus—holding onto His word and what we know of Him—will keep us grounded in truth. Jesus is stronger than any fear or temptation that threatens to hinder our journey with God. In Jesus we find the strength to keep going and to say no to Satan’s allurements. In Jesus we find the courage to continue on the path, and journey straight into the Father’s arms, making our way Home.

If you would like to learn more about Quest for Celestia, visit Steven James’ blog stvjames.blogspot.com.

Next week I will paint for you one more scene.

*Steven James, Quest for Celestia (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2012), page 118.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Voice of Truth

Which do you think is louder in our world today—the voice of truth or the voice of darkness? Which is louder in your mind?

I wonder what “darkness” sounds like. You would think that it would boast loud screeches or frantic screams. But perhaps, the voice of darkness is more subtle. Perhaps it comes more often to our minds whispering doubts, fears, and lies:

“Does God really love you?”
“He doesn’t care about what you’re going through.”
“Even God can’t get you through this.”

The more we listen to the lies of darkness, the stronger the voice becomes, choking out truth and hope. The voice of darkness hisses poisonous words:

“You’re never going to make it through this trial.”
“God won’t ever forgive you for that sin.”
“God has abandoned you.”

The voice of truth silences the voice of darkness. Whether it comes to us as a still, small voice or as loudly as a trumpet blast, truth calls us to rally behind the assurances of the cross and to rise up capable in God’s power and secure in His love. The cross will forever be a symbol of God’s love for us, a reminder that if God gave His Son so we could have eternal life, He will give us everything we need for daily life (Romans 8:32). The voice of truth reminds us that God makes His power available to us, so we can walk in victory and not in defeat (Ephesians 6:10). The truth also comforts us that God’s love is personal, eternal, and unchanging (John 15:9, Jeremiah 31:3, Hebrews 13:8); and He is with us, never to leave us (Hebrews 13:5).

Whose voice will you listen to? When doubts and fears begin to haunt you, listen to the voice of truth. Heeding the truth of God’s Word opens the floodgate of light into your heart and life. Darkness has to flee. Hold onto the Light. Let Truth be the voice that directs you into God’s peace, joy, and victory. Join forces with God’s army of light so that the voice of truth has a stronger influence in our world than the voice of darkness.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Perfect Song

I am looking for the perfect song.

I’ve heard some beautiful music in my lifetime. I grew up at a church that had glorious music—timeless hymns, contemporary praise choruses, and stunning choral arrangements. Every Christmas, we’d put on a Christmas pageant that included hundreds of volunteers and amazing songs like “The Hallelujah Chorus” and “Mary, Did You Know?”. Every Easter, trumpeters standing in the balcony would echo each other’s notes, as the choir and orchestra celebrated Christ’s resurrection with music fit for heaven.  
The songs that I heard nearly twenty years ago, I still sing today.  I love to sing them when I’m cooking dinner, driving down the road, or drying my hair (when no one can hear me). But when I really focus on God and think about what He has done for me, especially over this past year, no songs come to mind. No words. I’m speechless. I know plenty of songs that exalt God’s name, His character, and His ways, and some come close to being the song that I need. Yet, I still can’t think of a song that reflects the fullness of my gratefulness.

Then it dawned on me. If I wanted to praise God with the perfect song, it would be the melody of a life dedicated to Him. It would be living every day, meditating on His word, heeding His instruction, and walking in His ways. It would be loving Him with all that I am and helping others to know Him, so they can love Him, too. Perhaps the perfect song God wants is the day-to-day music we create with our lives. Then the expression of our love and gratefulness will find its way into every action we take and every word we say. And of course, He loves to hear our praises as we sing and play with thankful hearts.

What do you think is the best way that we can praise God? Is there a song that you love to sing which captures your gratefulness to Him? Whatever form our “song” takes, let’s always be mindful of the love and the glory of God, and praise Him with all that we are! As one of my favorite verses says, “Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2 NKJV).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Thank You for the Rain

It rained on Mother’s Day. Three times that day I was drenched by the rain. I felt miserable. The cool air didn’t help. The time I spent with my parents, however, was a delight. We sat in the morning church service together, ate lunch and talked and laughed, and watched the finale of one of our favorite TV shows that night. I gave my mom a store-bought butterfly card with a heartfelt sentiment inside. She loves butterflies. It was a good day. But I can’t forget the rain.  

It started that morning and continued off and on through the afternoon. Rain, rain, rain. Even now, as I write this, a gray cloud hovers over my house. I feel like the “rain” has been heavier recently than it used to be. Over the past couple of years, I’ve experienced more “storms” right in a row than I have before. But thankfully, I could run to God, and my family, for cover. He was always there, in every storm. He saw every raindrop. And He helped.
I usually associate rain with the spiritual or emotional storms of life. But my church’s mid-week service changed that this week. One of the songs talked about grace pouring down like rain. That kind of rain brings comfort. I’ve realized this year more than ever that if God allows a “storm” of some kind to come, He will also send the grace to handle that test or trial. He will supply the help, strength, and wisdom to be victorious and to come out on the other side joyful. So if the sky opens up and rains a little trouble on me, I know God will open up heaven and rain down His grace.

Prayer: Father, thank You for what I’ve learned in the rain. If a trial comes, I won’t only see the difficulty, but I will look for Your grace. I will depend on You to handle it well, and to learn more about Your faithfulness and provision through it. The rain isn’t so bad when You’re here with me, and I know You’re my sunshine when the sky above is gray and bleak. I thank You now for the victory, and even the joy, that will come because You’re always faithful. Thank You for the rain, and thank You also for being the sunshine in my soul.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Shield

Dogs scare me. Big ones, little ones, quiet ones, and “yappers.” Experience has taught me to keep my distance. Sometimes I talk sweetly to them, but even then, I got a growl once. When I walk in the neighborhood alone, I take my umbrella. Fortunately I’ve only needed it one time. With the press of a button, an expanding umbrella is a pretty good deterrent to a curious dog.

When my dad walks with me, no umbrella is necessary. On more than one occasion, he’s been my shield. One day we met two rascals. We saw the first one coming. A boxer, whom we’ve met before, trotted down the street, heading straight toward us. We had time to prepare. Before she came close, Dad moved to put himself between me and the dog. As the dog circled around us, I circled around Dad, trying to keep him between me and her. Fortunately, the boxer was friendly, and didn’t stay with us long.

The other rascal was a surprise. We were walking into a cove when we heard little feet running on pavement. Then came the barking. This much smaller dog wasn’t happy that two strangers had entered his domain. When Dad heard the running and the barking, he grabbed my arm and whirled me away from the little yapper, again putting himself between me and danger. The dog backed off. He must have been convinced that Dad was much bigger than him and could take him.

My dad acted on a father’s instinct to protect. He made himself a shield to keep me from potential harm. In Genesis 15:1 (NKJV), God told Abraham, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” When worry threatens our peace, when anxiety encircles us, when fear haunts us, God is our shield. He stands between us and those things that would harm our souls. But we have to make the choice to stand behind Him, and depend on Him to protect us. God walks with us through all of life. With God as our shield, we can walk through life with courage and confidence, and not let fear hinder us.

“But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head” (Psalm 3:3 NKJV)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Little Flutter, A Lot of Thud

Every morning a robin stalks my neighbor’s basement window. First he flutters close to it, contemplating his task. Then he charges, an action which invariably ends with a thud. But he remains undaunted. After a few more tries and a few more thuds, he finally flies away. Yet he always returns the next morning.  

Too often we can be like that stubborn bird. We bang our heads against the “window” trying to get something that’s beyond our reach. The “glass” stops us time after time. Sometimes it’s God putting the glass in our way. He knows that what we want isn’t good for us, so He uses obstacles and hindrances to slow our pace and get our attention. He puts barriers to protect us from what we think we want, and to free us to pursue better things.

I am learning that although I may think something is good for me, it may not be. And if God says it’s not, He knows what He’s talking about. He gives us boundaries for our own protection and well-being, and those boundaries are found in His word. Deuteronomy 10:13 encourages us to keep His commandments which are given for our good, and we can be assured that “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 NKJV).

The glass is there for a reason. We may furiously flutter and continually bang our heads against the glass, but God won’t budge. He is looking out for our best interests, for our joy and our inner soundness. He knows the abundant blessings He has in store for us, if we seek Him and walk in His ways instead of our own. So let’s fly straight to His arms and trust Him that He knows best! His “no” to one thing is usually a “yes” to something better.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Psalms: My Hero

What does a hero look like? Some may say tall, dark, and handsome. Others may picture a knight clad in armor, or envision a modern day soldier fighting in another country. We have many heroes among us. But what does the best hero of all time look like? I would say—God!

I love action movies and adventure stories, especially the ones that happen in a medieval setting. The hero of the story has to be courageous and daring against a fierce enemy, and win a glorious victory. I think my love for a good heroic tale caused me to love the book of Psalms all the more. God is often pictured as the hero, delivering His beloveds from fierce enemies and defeating formidable adversaries. I also love this picture of God because I have needed Him as a hero.

My favorite Bible verse is found in a chapter that portrays God as a hero four times. Four scenarios caused people in distress to cry out to God for help, and each time He acted. The reaction of the psalmist? A call to praise. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8,15,21,31).* God tailors His goodness to the needs in our lives. Do we need deliverance? Healing? A home? A satisfied heart? He provides it. Our part is to turn to Him.

The difficulties that the people in Psalm 107 faced illustrate the spiritual needs we have today. The deliverance God gave them He gives today to those who cry out to Him. In the first scenario, the people “wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way” (Ps 107:4) with nowhere to call home. They were hungry and thirsty with weary souls. Today so many people wander in desolation with empty souls, needing something, or Someone, to fill them. God rescues us by saving us and giving us a “home” to rest in—a relationship with Himself. That is where we can find a place of peace and rest, a place of contentment and satisfaction for our souls.

In the next scenario, the people “sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons” (Ps 107:10). They had rebelled against God’s words, and had brought misery on themselves. What was God’s rescue?  He delivered them from darkness and death, and freed them from bondage. God rescues us even when we have rebelled against Him. When we turn to Him, He frees us from the bondage we are caught in, and turns our darkness into light.

The third set of people also needed to be rescued from the consequences of sin. Their transgressions afflicted their souls, and they were near death. Here God sent His word to heal them. God delivers us from the affliction sin brings by healing us with His word. His truth restores our spiritual health and strength, and shapes our hearts to be Godly like His.

In the fourth scenario, the people faced a storm which God had allowed to come. They could do nothing to stop the storm. They were “at their wits’ end” (Ps 107:27). How often have you felt like that in the middle of a spiritual storm? When there seems to be no end to the tumult that has overtaken us, we can look to the One who controls all wind” and waves.” We can take hope in this truth: “He calms the storm, so that its waves are still” (Ps 107:29). God knows how to quiet every storm and bring peace to our hearts.

When our need to be rescued is great, God’s ability to rescue us is always greater. He hears those who cry out to Him. His love moves Him to come to our aid, and His power provides for us and delivers us like no one else can. He is our Hero in every trial and in every trouble. “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Ps 107:43).

*All Scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Psalms: My Shepherd

When I was in the second grade, my teacher gave each of us a charcoal-sketched picture of a man holding a lamb. This picture was special to me, not just because of the teacher who gave it or because the lamb looked so content in the man’s arms. What made it special was the man holding the lamb. He had nail-scarred hands, and the look on His face matched the look on the lamb’s face. Both had their eyes closed, and the embrace they shared was one of love and contentment.
In John 10, Jesus is pictured as our good shepherd. But the image of a shepherd used to describe God came long before this in the Old Testament—in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Zechariah, and of course, Psalms.  Psalm 23, one of the most beloved psalms, describes the LORD as “my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1 NKJV). He is a personal shepherd, a personal guide who leads us through “green pastures” and by “still waters” (Psalm 23:2 NKJV). He nourishes us and restores our souls. Even when we have to walk through the valleys, we have reason not to be afraid. He is with us. The rod of His power and the staff of His protection keep us safe on treacherous paths and in uncertain times. He abundantly provides for our needs even when the enemy threatens us, and He brings us joy when we could have despaired. The LORD’s goodness and His mercy pursue us all of our days, and we can find no greater contentment than to dwell in His presence forever.

The God of all creation, the Lord over all things, is our shepherd. My shepherd. Your shepherd. All those who follow Him find Someone who will love them, cherish them, and take care of them forever. The lamb in my charcoal-sketched picture is each of us. With our God as our shepherd, we don’t have to be afraid of what life holds for us. We don’t have to be anxious when we walk through dark valleys. The shepherd who holds us is the God who cares for us perfectly. We are safe with Him, and free to pursue all the good things He has for us. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 NKJV).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Psalms: God is Personal

What I love the most about Psalms is that it showed me God is a personal God. He didn’t make all things and then leave us to fend for ourselves. He is real, He is involved in our lives, and He loves us with a deep, abiding love. Whatever David and the other psalmists needed, God was there for them—whether it was protection, mercy, wisdom, or justice. God cared about what they were going through and intervened on their behalf. He is a personal God, the one and only personal God. And He is still personal today.

I found that the Psalms themselves were beautiful, in how they were written and how they talked about God. But they became even more precious to me when I experienced God in those ways. When He rescued me from enemies of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. When He "held" me close when all I could do was cry. When He gave joy for sorrow, healing for hurts, and peace for restlessness. He has been exactly what I’ve needed again and again. He has given me adventures to share with Him and opportunities to tell others about Him. I am so grateful.

How is God real and personal in our lives? Here are some of the passages that have spoken the most to me. I hope that in your daily life you see God doing some of these things—rescuing you, teaching you, protecting you, strengthening you, and filling your heart with His joy and peace.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps” (Psalm 40:1-2 NKJV).*

“Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).

“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8).

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

“For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling” (Psalm 116:8).

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

*All Scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Because Jesus is Alive

Because Jesus is alive…

Life with God is possible.
Salvation is secure.
Death has no victory.
Sin has lost its power over us.
Joy is eternal.
Love is evident.
Peace is enduring.

Because Jesus is alive…

We don’t have to live burdened by sin and guilt.
We have purpose and meaning in life.
We have a Savior to proclaim and a gospel to share.
We have a Hero who defeats every foe and wins every victory.

Because Jesus is alive…

Every word He spoke is confirmed, and every promise is real.
We come to God “by a new and living way” (Heb 10:20 NKJV).
We have a faithful High Priest who ministers to us and intercedes for us (Heb 2:17, 4:15-16, 7:25).

Because Jesus is alive, we can be free from sin and eternal death, we can know and cherish the eternal God, and we can flourish in His eternal love.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for giving Your life for us. Thank You for winning the victory over sin and death and Satan. You are the living Savior! When we believe in You, You come to live in our hearts, never to leave. Thank You for Your grace and love. You are our Hero.

Thank You for giving me life. I know of no greater gift than to be able to spend forever with You. I celebrate You this Easter, and I love You. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Psalm 22: Jesus

It’s hard for me to hear about the suffering of Christ and all of the events that led to the cross. Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked for a volunteer in my ESL (English as a Second Language) class to read Psalm 22:1, which says, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (NKJV).* The first volunteer read it in English. The second volunteer began to read it in Spanish, but couldn’t finish. Emotion overtook her, and tears began to swell. I could relate.

Written about a thousand years before Jesus’ crucifixion, Psalm 22 is the only psalm that is entirely devoted to describing Jesus’ death for us. His physical, emotional, and spiritual agony is hard to imagine. The cruel nature of Jesus’ enemies and His pain is described here with picturesque language. This chapter was written by the psalmist David, yet God inspired him to show what His Son would go through on the cross. Verse six foretells that Jesus would be despised by men: “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised by the people.” Jesus’ enemies would encircle Him like wild, savage animals: “Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me … like a raging and roaring lion” (Ps 22:12-13). The physical and emotional toll on Jesus would “melt” Him: “I am poured out like water … My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me” (Ps 22:14). Verse 16 foreshadows the brutality of this form of execution: “They pierced My hands and My feet.”

Yet I would think that the most intense form of agony is found in Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” In order for Jesus to bear our sin, He had to be separated from God—from the Father and the Spirit with whom He had always been united. Was this separation the reason Jesus asked three times if the Father would take “this cup,” this suffering, from Him (Matt 26:39 NKJV)? But each time Jesus prayed that the Father’s will would be done. Jesus understood that He was the only one who could drink that cup—who could die for our sin—and He was willing to do it because of His great love for us (Romans 5:8).

The resurrection of our Lord from the grave is the Easter story that we celebrate every spring. Sin and death couldn’t hold Him. No “bull” (fierce person) or “dog” (malicious person) could take His life. He willingly laid it down for love’s sake and because it was the Father’s will. Because of His sinless life, His spotless sacrifice, God raised Jesus from the dead as proof of who He was and what He did. He is the Son of God, and He sacrificially gave His life so that we could have life forever with God. What a Savior!

Praise is the heartfelt response we can have to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus won the victory over sin and death for us. We can turn to Him and worship Him (Ps 22:27); we can serve Him and tell others what He has done for us (Ps 22:31). This Easter, let’s praise God for giving us His Son, and look for opportunities to tell others what great things the Lord has done!

*All Scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Psalms: God's Mercy

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:8, 11-14 NKJV*

We may choose sin, but when we also choose repentance, God chooses mercy. He is compassionate towards us even in our failings. He pities us as a father who has compassion for his children who make mistakes as they grow up. God understands that just as a child who is learning to walk will stumble, we will stumble as we learn to walk in His ways. But when we stumble, His mercy is abundant and His forgiveness complete. He removes our sins far from us. He may not always remove sin’s consequences, but He will give us the strength and grace to help us return home to Him and to get back on His path for our lives.

Hebrews Chapters 9 and 10 also bring us much-needed freedom and relief. Because Jesus died for our sin, we can “enter” God’s presence freely. “Having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus … and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19,21-22 NKJV). Jesus is active in our lives, standing before God as our Advocate and cleansing us from sin. Because of Him, we can move past being focused on our failings to drawing close to God and embracing Him and His ways for our lives.

Sin and guilt don’t have to keep us from enjoying life with God and serving Him. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The freedom we have in Christ is not an excuse to pursue sin as much as we want, but a motivation to love the One who forgives us and graciously draws us close to His heart. When we see ourselves, God, and His mercy from His perspective and take that to heart, guilt no longer reigns over us, but gratitude. Thank You, Father, for Your mercy!

*Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Psalms: God's Giving Heart

I have already thought about Christmas—the cold weather, the warm sweaters, the snow, and the joy of the season. And it’s not even April yet! It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is—when I am really happy, I hum Christmas songs. They just seem to “eek” out when my joy is overflowing. I just hummed “Deck the Halls” with my eight-year-old friend the other day. Christmas is a beautiful time of the year, not just because of the music, lights, and decorations. It’s a chance to show people you love them, with the fellowships and the food, the presents and the cards. It’s a time when you get to share good things and give good things to those you love.

God is a gift giver. Giving is something He does all year long because He delights in giving “good things to those who ask Him” (Matt 7:11 NKJV). As James 1:17 (NKJV) tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” The book of Psalms is filled with the kinds of things our heavenly Father loves to give us.

What does God give us?

• Life (Ps 119:50)
• Strength and peace (Ps 29:11)
• Light and understanding (Ps 119:130)
• Counsel (Ps 16:7)
• Grace and glory (Ps 84:11)
• Protection and support (Ps 18:35, 37:24)
• Justice and freedom (Ps 146:7)
• Food/necessities (Ps 111:5)
• Sleep (Ps 127:2)
• Rest from adversity (Ps 94:12-13)
• Deliverance (Ps 18:17, 34:4)
• Relief (Ps 55:18)
• The desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4)

God gives the best presents. At Christmas, we celebrate His most precious Gift—Jesus, who came to earth as a Man and lived a sinless life. At Easter (which is coming soon), we celebrate Jesus’ death for us which paid for our sins, and we celebrate His resurrection which gives us the assurance of life forever with God.

God’s gifts are an expression of His perfect love for us. He doesn’t withhold any good thing “from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11). If He gave us His Son, we can know that He will give us everything we need for daily life and for the Christian life. We can trust Him that He will give us the desires of our hearts, as we delight in Him first (Ps 37:4). If for some reason our desires haven’t been fulfilled yet, then we can trust Him that He has something better in mind for us, or perhaps the timing just isn’t right. But being the perfect, loving Father that He is, we can trust God’s timing and wisdom. After all, He gives “perfect” gifts—just what we need when we need it. Thank You, Father, for Your gifts of love!

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NKJV).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Psalms: God's Protection

I was surrounded by them. Standing on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, my family and I saw the mountains all around us. At our elevation, we were about eye level with the peaks. A blanket of green covered the mountains. In the valleys below, we saw houses, roads, and lakes sprinkled among the trees. The legendary blue haze softened the ridges in the distance, while the mountains before us appeared strong and formidable.

Mountains are a natural defense against danger. Psalm 125:2 (NKJV) compares God and the protection He provides to the mountains: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.”

The LORD protects us. “The LORD is round about His people” (KJV)—“He is above, beneath, around them; and while they keep within it, their fortress is impregnable, and they can suffer no evil.”* When God surrounds us with His love, power, and protection, we can rest assured that nothing can assail us unless He allows it. And if He allows it, He has a good purpose for it (Romans 10:28; Jeremiah 32:40-41). We can always trust His heart, His wisdom, and His protective hand. Hiding in God’s hand is the safest place for us to be. He won’t ever lose us or let us go (John 10:28-29). He keeps a constant watch over us while we sleep (Psalm 3:5, 4:8). When a multitude of anxieties come against us, He is our shield and comforts us (Psalm 3:6, 94:19). His fierce love for us and His absolute authority make Him a powerful protector and a refuge for those who love Him (Psalm 7:10, 18:1-2).

So where will you hide? When anxieties, fears, or Satan seek to trouble you, run to the Most High God, and abide under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:1, 4). Count on the LORD as your protector, and remember that He surrounds you with His strength and goodness.

* Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary, quoted in Phil Lindner, Power Bible CD, CD-ROM (Bronson, Mich.: Online Publishing, Inc., 2007), Psalm 125:2.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Psalms: A Primer for Life

Do you know what my favorite book of the Bible is? Psalms. It was my “primer” growing up, a textbook that taught me the basics of life with God. I love Psalms because it showcases the multi-faceted character of God—His mercy and love, His forgiveness and restoration, His zeal and “formidable-ness,” and His patience and wisdom. Psalms showed me that God is Someone we can draw close to, cry out to, and depend on when everything is fine or when everything falls apart. It gave me hope that God could provide for my needs, calm my fears, comfort my sorrows, and strengthen me to serve Him.

David and the other psalmists knew God well. David had spent time with God, thinking about Him and probably talking to Him as he took care of his father’s sheep. When King Saul sought to take his life, God protected him. When David sinned with Bathsheba, he received God’s forgiveness. David knew from experience God’s protection, fellowship, and mercy. When I studied what David and others wrote in the book of Psalms, I was inspired to know God more and to trust Him to also take care of me. I'm still inspired today.

In the weeks to come, I’d like to focus on what the book of Psalms says about God—the glories of who He is and how that relates to us. Because He has perfect knowledge, He knows what our needs are. Because He has supreme power, He has the ability to meet those needs. More than that, He is Someone worth knowing, loving, and serving just because of who He is. His heart of love, His strength, and His goodness move us to follow Him. How have the Psalms, and the God who inspired them, blessed you? Leave a comment about what Psalms means to you. As David said in Psalm 103:2 (NKJV), “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits”!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Song in Your Head

Sometimes I just can’t get a song out of my head. Does it happen to you? I hear a song on the radio or TV, and it plays over and over in my mind. I take it with me everywhere I go. It sticks like glue to my brain. Then I go into a restaurant or store, and I hear a different song with a totally different beat. Sometimes the new music clashes so badly with the music in my head, it’s hard to keep singing the first song. The temptation is to turn loose of the song I came with, and conform to the music around me. If you were in that situation, which song would you hold onto?

God places a song in our hearts, but the world tempts us to conform to its rhythm. The beat of the world is totally contrary to the beat of God’s heart and mind. The world says, “Live for self.” God says, “Live to bless others” (Philippians 2:3-4). The world says, “You have to take care of yourself, because no one else will.” God says, “I will supply all your needs, and satisfy your heart” (Phil 4:19; Psalm 107:9). The world says, “It’s OK to step over people to get what you want.” God says, “Love each other as you love yourself, even as I have loved you” (Mark 12:31; John 13:34).

God’s song is always better than the world’s—His melody of love, peace, strength, endurance, and victory outshines the harsh and self-centered mantra of the world. The question is—which “song” will we hold onto? God’s music that satisfies us, heals us, strengthens us, and makes us useful to Him; or the world’s music that will only leave us empty and searching for true fulfillment? Whatever noise from the world you hear around you, keep God’s song in your head. Tune your heart to hear His melody, and let it direct your life into the good things He has for you. The world and its pursuits don’t compare with the love, freedom, and fulfillment we find in Christ. Keep singing His song!

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not him…and the world is passing away…but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15,17 NKJV).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Wingmen

I heard a strange noise and wondered where it was coming from. As my dad and I walked in our neighborhood, I heard something like a coo or a gobble that didn’t match any sound I had heard before. I scanned the bushes across the street for any lurking creature. The sound came again—from the sky. A “v” of at least a dozen geese were flying north. They flew in perfect unison. Then one by one, they stopped flapping their wings to glide for a bit. The leader knew when to begin again, and all the others followed suit and resumed flapping when it was their turn.

Their combined efforts made the journey easier to bear. Perhaps you know, flying in a “v” formation allows the geese to share the air current made by the birds in front.* They don’t have to use as much energy, enabling them to fly farther than if they were on their own. Perhaps you don’t know, it’s possible for a flock to fly 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) in a 24-hour period.** That’s about the mileage distance between Dallas, TX and New York City, almost half of the country. It would take us the same amount of time to drive it. Can you imagine something as small as a goose flying that far in twenty-four hours? It seems like an impossible task, but they do it together.

We’re stronger together than apart. Like the geese who depend on each other to fly better and farther, we need each other for support and encouragement. God gives us “wingmen” to share life’s journey. When we grow in Godliness together and serve God alongside each other, we can “fly” farther and faster than on our own. When we grow tired and need a rest, someone else can pick up the slack and help us. We can be there for them, too. It may be challenging at times to find such people, but God can direct us to them. I’m grateful for the friends and family I get to “fly” with, and I hope to be a trustworthy wingman to them. Treasure those whom God has given you to share life’s journey. Treasure your wingmen!

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ … that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27 NKJV).

*http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/canadagoose/. Fact 3 of 16.
**Ibid. Fact 11 of 16.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Peace, Be Still

“Lord, don’t You care?” The disciples woke Jesus up. A storm had engulfed them on the Sea of Galilee. Waves beat hard on them, filling the boat. They were going to sink. “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38 NKJV). In the midst of the raging storm, the disciples were afraid they were going to die, and there Jesus was, sleeping. He got up and commanded the wind, “’Peace, be still!’” (Mark 4:39 NKJV). The wind ceased. Jesus turned to the disciples, and asked them, “’Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’” (Mark 4:40 NKJV). Faith in Jesus would have given them security in the storm.

Jesus is always with us in our storms, and He cares about what we’re going through. The issue for us is trust. The disciples had reason to trust Him. They had seen Jesus cast out demons, heal sicknesses, and preach life-changing truth to multitudes of people. He had just finished preaching about faith and having a heart that is good ground for the “seed” of the word to take root in (Mark 4:20). In the storm, the disciples had a chance to exercise faith in Jesus—in His presence with them and in His power. But they were afraid. They had enough sense to wake Jesus up, but the storm held them captive in fear.

Unlike Jesus, it can be hard for us today to sleep through a storm. Even when the wind and the trees outside our homes are still and calm, in our hearts we can feel like we’re caught in a raging storm with no relief. But there’s Someone with us, Someone whose power not only controls the storms of nature but the storms of anxiety, fear, and circumstances. When we turn to the Lord and exercise faith in Him, our hearts can rest in His peace. He’ll help us to know what to do, what direction to take, or how to make things better. He’ll calm the storm in our hearts, whether or not He calms the storm in our circumstances. Whatever reason He allows the storms to come, we can trust His heart that He knows how much we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He has great good planned for us (Romans 8:28).

If you need a little peace, remember Who’s in the boat with you. Take rest in His word, seeking His face and believing His promises. He never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5). He is more powerful than any storm we face, and He gives us the power to handle all challenges and trials (Psalm 147:5; Psalm 68:35; Isaiah 40:29; Philippians 4:13). May His strength and His words calm your heart in the storms. In your darkest nights, may you hear Him say: “Peace, be still!”

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Cloud By Day and My Fire By Night

God begins and ends each day with beauty. I can’t decide which I love better—sunrises or sunsets. Both capture me—the golden glow of a sunrise as it peeks above the trees, and the purple and pink radiance of a sunset just before it disappears for the night. For the longest time, I favored sunsets, partially because I stayed up too late to actually see morning’s first light. But my partiality changed about three months ago.

Last November, I saw a sunrise that made me run to find my camera. The sky was filled with charcoal-colored clouds that seemed to be set “on fire” by the rising sun. The clouds glowed with a brilliant light, and I thought, God is in the clouds. I know that we can’t see God in physical form, but the clouds glowed so much from within that it made me think of the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire mentioned in Exodus (Exod 13:21). God’s very presence went before the Israelites in a cloud by day and a fire by night. These were a constant reminder that He was always with them, leading them, protecting them, and providing for them.

God is always near us. As His children, we don’t have to look for a cloud or a fire for comfort and guidance. God has made His home within us (John 14:23). The fire of His love warms our hearts, and by the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us, God guides us through all of life. He also speaks to us through His word and draws us close to His heart as we study it and talk to Him in prayer. He stays with us throughout the day, and when we fall asleep, He stands guard, always watching over us. His love, joy, and peace plant a permanent glow in our hearts that reminds us He is real, He cares about us, and He will never leave us.

The next time you see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, take a minute to think about the One who created it. His glory and majesty are matchless, and His love is constant. “From the rising of the sun to its going down,” may the LORD’s name be praised (Psalm 113:3 NKJV).