PROVERBS 3:5-6 (NKJV) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
The voice on the phone sounded frantic when Jane, our administrative assistant, answered the call. One of our newer clients was trying to find her way to our office and be on time for her counseling appointment. Although she had been here before, this time she was trying to find it on her own'-and she was lost.
'I'm sitting in the parking lot of an insurance office!' she exclaimed. 'Where are you? How did I get here?'
The dear lady borrowed a book from our library when she came for her first appointment and had it on the car seat next to her as she drove up for her second visit. Being unsure of where she was, she opened the book, found our address on the front page, and typed the location into her GPS to direct her to our office. The problem wasn't that the GPS didn't work properly; it was that the address in the book was our old address! It was an older book and we failed to put a new address sticker inside when we moved several years ago. She was headed to the wrong destination.
In The Principle of the Path, author Andy Stanley vividly points out that '. . . in every area of life, we are moving in a specific direction toward a specific destination.' Our choices take us each step of the way and sooner or later we wind up wherever we have been headed. 'Direction determines destination.'
Although my intentions and my determination are important, if I'm headed the wrong direction, I'll wind up at the wrong destination. Only setting my focus on the right destination, and taking each step in that direction will get me where I want to go. Each choice I make, then, becomes an intentional step toward my destination, or one that leads me away from it; therefore, each choice, each day is profoundly important!
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me see clearly the destination You set before me. Keep my life moving in that direction and that direction only as I follow the light of Your Word and the voice of Your Spirit.
WORDS TO PONDER: "The course you have set relationally, financially, spiritually, and professionally will determine where you end up in each of those respective arenas. This is true regardless of your goals, your dreams, your wishes, or wants . . . Your current direction will determine your destination."
LUKE 1:38Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
It's usually Christmas when we read through Luke chapters 1 & 2, however, this year my heart is drawn to the life of Mary as we celebrate Mother's Day.
Here we see a young, dedicated Jewish woman who experienced . . .
A BRIEF ENCOUNTER with an angel that changed her life forever. He called her "highly favored one", and "blessed".
A BOLD EXPLANATION that God had chosen her to supernaturally bear the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of His people.
And Mary became for us A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE of trust, humility, and obedience.
Trace her life through the gospels and you'll see that she never stopped believing in the promises God gave to her through the angel.
As followers of Christ, it behooves each one of us to follow her example. May we wisely listen to His message, willingly accept His direction, and without hesitation submit to His plan for our life-and never stop believing His promises.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as we celebrate this special day, let us never forget that trust, humility, and obedience lead us to joy and l deeper intimacy with You.
WORDS TO PONDER: "My soul magnifies the Lord,And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior . . .For He who is mighty has done great things for me,And holy is His name.-Mary, Mother of Jesus (Luke 1:46, 49)
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!
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ROMANS 8:28-29 (NKJV)And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Yes, spring is here and with it come the rains and frequent storms. While I know these are a necessary part of life, they interrupt my day, and often bring a dreariness that makes it hard to be joyful.
So I wait for the storm to pass, but then I recall the little saying, 'Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.'
As a child, dancing in spring rain was almost magical. Rain drops falling on my head and in my face brought laughter as youthful feelings of joy and exuberance drenched my soul. But all too often now I see the rain as an intrusion and an unwanted annoyance.
Sadly, that's how I often view the difficult and unsettling things that come into my life; however, of one thing I can be sure-my storm is never a surprise to God. Even before the clouds begin to gather, my loving Heavenly Father sees what I cannot catch sight of at that moment. Whatever He allows into my life is all a part of His plan and purpose, and as I rest in the comfort and security of His promises, my perspective changes. The storm is no longer an intrusion in my life, but rather an opportunity for God to shape and mold me more and more into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So when the storm clouds gather, and the rain begins to fall, when lightning flashes around me and thunder rolls, in this I can be confident'-He is in control! I can trust Him to work all things for good. I can rest in His promises. I can even dance in difficult times and let the joy of the Lord drench my soul for I know that all is well. Because of His faithfulness, His goodness, and His ever-abiding presence I can even learn to dance I the rain.
PRAYER: Loving Father, let me not fear the storms of life, but rather find joy and strength in allowing You to do Your wondrous work in my life.
WORDS TO PONDER: 'Our confidence flows out of His steadfastness.'-Sheila Walsh, The Shelter of God's Promises
JAMES 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.
As I look around me today, I see that I am blessed, yet I am keenly aware that any and all of my blessings could be taken from me at any moment. I'm reminded of a dear friend whose recent diagnosis of MS robs her of hopes and dreams for the future. And I see another friend swirling in the aftermath of losing a job of nearly 30 years. Recently I sat with a lady whose son was killed in an accident. Her heartbreak and loss continue day after day and hour after hour. The truth is that all we have is not ours, but belongs to God, and we must live with open hands, ready to hand to Him anything and everything we possess at any time.
Yes, all I have belongs to God. I haven't earned it nor do I deserve it. These things are gifts given to me and I am the only the caregiver, the steward, to watch over them and use them wisely. When and if God allows these things to be removed from me, it is as if I simply hand them back to Him for He knows best. But in the giving there is often pain, hurt, sorrow, doubt and fear for sometimes I do not understand His ways. Even though I cannot comprehend His plan, I can trust Him for He is my loving heavenly Father. So I trust with open hands'-and yield with an open heart.
Christian author and musician Sheila Walsh puts it this way, 'When our dreams seem to go sour or remain unfulfilled, hopelessness can dominate our lives'-or we can hold on with open hands, knowing that we have hope because God is faithful,' (from Life is Tough, But God is Faithful).
Loving Father, help me always to keep my hand and my heart open to You, knowing that Your love will protect, provide and prevail in every situation. Truly, Father, You are faithful.
2 PETER 3:18 (KJV)But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen
Most often when I read II Peter 3:18, my focus goes to growing in Christ and deepening my relationship with Him, but recently I stumbled on a quote that made me pause and examine Peter's use of the little phrase 'our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'. It's amazing how incredibly those four little words point to the multiple relationships Peter had with the Lord'-and the same can apply to every true believer in Christ. Look at what each word in that one little phrase implies:
Our '- That is personal. Christ belongs to a specific group; He belongs to me. He's me personal Friend.
Lord '- Christ is my Master, my Teacher and the One I follow and obey.
Savior '- He is my Redeemer and Rescuer who takes me from the old way of life to a new one.
Jesus '- His human name reminds me that He really lived on earth so He knows the struggles and difficulties I face. He is my Brother.
Christ '- He's my Messiah, the Promised One sent from God who is worthy of all praise.
Because of Jesus, Peter's life was changed! Once a rough and impetuous fisherman, Peter became a great evangelist and the first one to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He who once denied the Savior became a dedicated follower and friend who later willingly laid down His own life for the Master.
How would you describe your relationship with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Is He a personal friend? Is He the Master whom you follow and obey? Has He taken you from the old to a new way of life and become your Redeemer? Do you know that He knows and helps you through your struggles? Do you see Him as the One sent from God who is worthy of all praise?
As theologian J. Niebor has well said of Peter, 'He obeyed Him as Lord, he loved Him as Saviour, he adored Him as the greatest human, Jesus, he worshipped Him as the mighty anointed Son of God, Christ,' (from Walk Through the Bible, by J. Vernon McGee)
Peter's one little phrase is certainly full of meaning for him and for all believers. Knowing and feeling all of this, then Peter breaks forth in praise'-'To Him be glory for now and forever!' And we should praise Him, too!.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we praise You and bless Your Holy name for being able to know you in so many different ways.
WORDS TO PONDER:Bless the LORD, O my soul,And forget not all His benefits:Who forgives all your iniquities,Who heals all your diseases,Who redeems your life from destruction,Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,Who satisfies your mouth with good things,So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Job 19:25I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
What a thrill to KNOW that my Redeemer lives! Jesus Christ is just as alive today as He was right after the resurrection. In fact, He is just as much alive today as He was before the crucifixion, and even before He came to earth and was laid in the manger.
What difference does it make whether we serve a living God or one made of stone? Isn't it just a practice we believe in? Is it a crutch to help us along our way? No! Absolutely not!
A living God knows right where you are day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. He sees your every need, hears your every cry, and longs to hold you close to Himself. He is present to walk with you through the valley. He provides a song in the night. He takes your feet from the muck and mire and plants them on a rock. He blesses you with hope and gives joy for Life's journey. A god with no life is unable to do these things. He cannot see, or hear, or reach, or touch, or provide. He simply cannot.
But my God is alive! The joy and the assurance that we celebrate on Easter doesn't end when the holiday is over and the decorations are all packed away. Why? Because Christ is alive. So rejoice, my friend, and live each day with the hope and joy that Easter brings. Walk with Christ. Talk with Him, and allow His joy to penetrate your heart and fill your soul. Don't live in defeat and agony as if Christ is still on the cross, or in the tomb. HE is alive! He IS alive! He is ALIVE!
PRAYER: Lord, I praise and worship You because You are alive and because You share Your magnificent self with me as Your child. Thank You for the constant day by day fellowship I have with You. Thank You for being alive!
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JOHN 20:19-20Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
From the time they first saw Jesus, each disciple knew there was something special about Him. The more they focused on Him, the more he enabled them to do the impossible, and empowered them to live above fear. We see this so vividly portrayed on the day the disciples saw Jesus walking across the water toward the boat where they were. As soon as Peter saw that it was the Lord, he enthusiastically jumped out of the boat and miraculously walked on the water toward Jesus. But the moment Peter moved his focus from Jesus to the raging waves around him, fear set in and he began to sink. Then Jesus reached out and rescued His fearful follower. As long as his eyes were on Jesus, Peter was fine, but with a shift of focus he went from confident to cautious, and from secure to scared.
So it was with the disciples after the resurrection. Their focus had been on Jesus and setting up His kingdom on earth. They talked of it, planned for it, preached about it'-and probably even dreamed of it at night. But when Christ died, those hopes and dreams were shattered. Their focus turned to their immediate surroundings and what would become of them since their beloved leader was gone. Fear, doubt and confusion grabbed hold of them and they hid from people. Then the risen Christ appeared in the room where they gathered, and it only took one look at Him for their hope to be restored. The Gospel of John tells us, 'Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.' Their purpose and passion were renewed and their hope was restored. They were empowered again!
It's so easy in this fast-paced, faltering world to get distracted and move our focus off of Christ and onto our immediate surroundings. Natural disasters, weakening economies, political unrest, and personal failures and frustrations stir up fear and anxiety within us. One look at our powerful, risen Savior brings it all back into proper focus. Jesus is alive! He is victorious over all of life's uncertainties and tragedies. Our hope is in Him and our victory is certain! Rejoice and be glad!
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, when my eyes wander to the circumstances surrounding me, please turn my head back toward the empty tomb and the risen Savior. Then I will find peace and strength, hope and joy.
COLOSSIANS 4:5-6 (KJV)Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
Years ago my friend Grace and I spent a lot of time talking. Our children were young and played together often, and she and I were involved in many of the same activities at church. We just naturally had a lot to talk about! One day when her husband questioned how we could talk so long, I told him I was practicing a Biblical command'-'Let your speech be always with grace . . .' Although I know that wasn't what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote those words, it sounded to me like a good answer at the time!
In reality, Paul's words instruct us about the way we are to speak to others. Here the word 'grace' means acceptable, beneficial, pleasant, with favor and appreciation. Paul also reminds us that our speech is to be 'seasoned with salt.' Since salt's two primary purposes are to preserve and to add flavor, Paul seems to be telling us that our conversations should be tasteful and should preserve and not corrupt.
Bible commentator Matthew Henry puts it this way: 'Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, and keeps it from corrupting. It is not enough to answer what is asked, unless we answer aright also.'
I've come to the conclusion that speaking with grace and kindness is not just a matter of learning to say the right words; it's an attitude of the heart and mind. What comes out of my mouth only reflects what's going on inside. Truly, I must set my heart on the things of God and let Him do His work in me if I want to fulfill His command to speak with grace seasoned with salt.
PRAYER: Lord, my heart echos the words of David when he said, 'Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.' (Psalm 19:14)
WORDS TO PONDER: "When friends meet hearts warm."-Anonymous
COLOSSIANS 3:12-13 (NKJV)Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
Part of building great relationships involves the intentional choice of building up and encouraging others. A key component in that is simply showing kindness.
Author Jerry Bridges says, 'Kindness is a sincere desire for the happiness of others . . . the inner disposition, created by the Holy Spirit that causes us to be sensitive to the needs of others, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Goodness is kindness in action'-words and deeds.'
A smile, opening the door for someone, or speaking an encouraging word cost us nothing, and they are easy to do, but there are bigger ways to show kindness that require time, energy, and/or money. Driving someone to an appointment, opening your wallet to provide food for a needy family, helping a neighbor pack for a move, or standing beside a friend as a loved one is dying require something from you. They require being unselfish and putting others first.
Opportunities to exercise kindness and goodness in big and small ways surround us every day. They are unlimited, and they are building blocks for healthy relationships'-but most of all they reflect the life, love, and character of the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you willing to give what it takes to show the world Jesus?
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, help me today, and every day, see the needs of those around me and be willing to help meet them with kindness and goodness.
WORDS TO PONDER: 'The person who has grown in the grace of kindness has expanded his thinking outside himself and developed a genuine interest in those around him.'-Jerry Bridges
Romans 14:19(NIV)Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
After more than 25 years of professional counseling, I'm convinced that if we do things God's way, they will work for good. There is no principle in any psychology or counseling manual or text that is truly effective except those that are based on biblical guidelines. All of what is genuinely successful long term is founded on God's Word even though the authors of those books may not know it, or may choose not to acknowledge it.
I'm also convinced that the most successful relationships come out of a desire to build-up and encourage one another, just as God told us to, rather than tear down or make the other person the brunt of the joke. True humor finds the irony and ridiculousness in natural things of life, not in another person. What is hilarious to one person often humiliates, hurts, or even harms another. It's an expensive gesture to ridicule or set another person up to look foolish'-especially if it's done in front of other people.
Here are just a few samples of what the Bible says on the subject:
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV). . . speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Galatians 6:10 (NIV)Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Want to improve your relationships? Try intentionally building up and encouraging the other person. Speak words of kindness, appreciation, sincere compliments, and recognition for things well done. Do it face to face, through written notes, emails, or any social media. Give eye contact and focused attention. Listen carefully to what he/she is saying and repeat back what you think you heard.
If there is a problem, direct communication with the individual in a private setting is the way to confront the issue, being sure to speak in the spirit of brotherly love, with kindness and respect as Paul told us to in Ephesians 4:15.
Following these biblical principles will not only help other people, but you'll feel good about it, too-and you'll build stronger relationships. Ultimately, God will be pleased and glorified, so it's a winning strategy all the way around!
PRAYER: Lord, I realize my mouth is a power force for good or evil. Help me to be mindful of the words I choose, and the tone I use so what I say will help and not hurt others.
WORDS TO PONDER: 'The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life.' -Proverbs15:4 (NIV)