Saturday, September 19, 2020

Are We There Yet? Plus Devotional Giveaway!

Hey Friend,

This post appeared on DaySpring's (in)courage blog one year ago, and now it is part ot a new devotional - "Take Heart - 100 devotions for seeing God when life is not okay."  This power packed devotional tackles the hard feelings and experiences we are all dealing with like anxiety, fear, fatigue, loneliness, depression, uncertainty, doubt, suffering, and wondering where God is in all of this?  Most of all, it offers hope and vital encouragement to hearts that are not okay.

I'll give you information as to how to preorder and get a free book of prayers to share.  But first, here's a sneak peak of what you can expect when you pre-order "Take Heart"...

Are We There Yet? 

 
We thought we were pretty "high tech" cruising down the road some twenty plus years ago in our Pontiac Transport minivan (lovingly known as the dustbuster on wheels).  For long family road trips, we were among the first to have a "deluxe" video tape player that plugged into the cigarette lighter.

Cell phones and video games had not yet burst onto the scene, so when my kids invariably asked, "Are we there yet?" I would put it in terms they would understand.  "One more Winnie the Pooh [thirty minutes] and we'll stop for something to eat."  "One more Sandlot [ninety minutes) and we'll be there."  This along with a Mary Poppins bag of treats and toys that came out at crucial moments, is what got us through those long ventures.  





As an adult who is cruising toward sixty, I find myself asking God "Are we there yet?"  

God has been so faithful to answer prayers in ways that I would have never imagined.  Some prayers went on for over twenty-five years, and it's beginning to dawn on me that some prayers will not be answered on this side of eternity.  We are drawn into thinking that this life is all there is and prayers need to be answered during this limited time we have on earth.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

God's promises, however, go far beyond our short life spans.  His focus is an eternal one and He calls us to get on the bandwagon with this way of thinking.  In a seminary class I took, one of the things they had us focus on in Scripture was repitition.  When God really wants to make a point, the point is often repeated several times.

Psalm 136 chronicles God's steadfastness throughout biblical history, and after every point the psalmist makes, the chorus is repeated. "His faithful love endures forever" is repeated twenty-six times.   

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

I think God is trying to get the point across that His love is not just for this world, but will be especially present in eternity - what hope, what joy awaits us!
 
The Bible talks a lot about forever, and eternity, and life everlasting.  The gospel's main theme is that man is not doomed forever for his sins, but by grace, can have life everlasting, and salvation in paradise forever.  

I am convicted that I need to adjust my lens for a more eternal setting.

This life is not all there is.




So, when I want to ask God, "How long, O Lord?" it's kind of like I'm asking as a child, "Are we there yet?"  As I try to patiently wait upon the Lord, I take heart that even if my prayers aren't answered on this side of the pearly gates, they will certainly receive a glorious answer in eternity.  

I thank You and praise You, God, that this life is not all there is.  Thank you for sending Your Son to die for me so that I may live forever in eternity with You. Help me to be patient through these trials and periods of suffering, because I know they are building my character for eternal puposes.  Help me to look not just to the end of this lifetime, but to the blessing of eternal life, where all unanswered prayers will finally be answered once and for all.  Grant me the patience until I am with You forever.  In Your eternal name I pray. Amen.

Now for the FUN!!!  Here's how to get 3 books - one you pay for and two for FREE!

1.  Pre-order "Take Heart" devotional (above) before OCT. 15th and you will get a FREE book "Prayers to Share."  After you go to the link below, be sure to fill out the REDEMPTION FORM in order to get the  FREE Prayer book.






2.  Enter a FREE Giveaway of (in)courage's first devotional - "A Moment to Breathe."  (it contains 2 devotions I've written). All you have to do to be entered is SUBSCRIBE to my blog.  To do this, go to the SUBSCRIBE TAB above and enter your contact information.  BE SURE TO LOOK FOR A CONFIRMATION LINK IN YOUR EMAIL INBOX to complete the Subscription. I never share my email list!

3.  Get a second entry on the FREE Giveaway by pre-ordering "Take Heart" devotional and then leave a comment below that says, "I want to take heart!"

Drawing for "A Moment to Breathe" to be held Sept. 26th.  US and Canada residents only for Giveaway. Thanks for reading...don'f forget - subscribe to win!



Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Space Between is Wearing Thin - Guest Post & Giveaway

Hey Friends,

I just finished reading this beautiful post by my good friend and sister-blogger, Jana Schmitt, and I knew immediately that I had to share it.  Her words echoed what has been on my heart and playing on a continuous loop in my mind.  I can't stop thinking about it and at times I have wondered if I was alone in my ponderings.  

I am blessed to work with Jana who is the Chairman of our wonderful Board of Directors for Redeemer Christian Foundation (RCF, Inc.)  God has truly blessed me by orchestrating our paths to cross years ago as our passions merged to share the gospel in hard to reach countries.

I invite you to read Jana's wisdom-filled writing and then click over to her blogsite to continue reading and then leave her some lovin' in her Comments section.  Before you leave, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY below.  Drawing to be held Sept. 26th.

Jana is a licensed counselor and full time “Jja-Ja” to her two grand babies. Despite being an empty nester, you’ll find that her house is rarely empty. She loves hosting gatherings, has a special knack for assembling charcuterie boards, and can usually be found Pinteresting her next renovation project. Jana is the matriarch of the writing trio that pens their thoughts at The Space We Share.








The Space Between is Wearing Thin   by Jana Schmitt

I want to share some things that have been on my heart. In fact, there’s so much welling up within me I’m not even sure where to begin. But I pray God gives me the words that offer hope and comfort and most clearly reflect HIS heart.

It seems every single piece of correspondence I’ve received for months now starts out with something about “these unprecedented times”. None of us would deny the truth in that. It’s no big revelation to say we’re living through some strange times. And in our imperfect humanity we each react differently to the uncertainty. Some of us withdraw. Some fight back. Some live in denial. Some grow ever more intent upon not letting these things affect their life plans while others fall prey to depression, anxiety and isolation.

But underneath it all - on some level - I think we’re all asking what is happening? Will things ever be normal again?

What if the answer to that is no? And what if that’s a good thing?

Click Here to read the rest of Jana's post at The Space We Share



Don't miss this GIVEAWAY!! In honor of being on the cusp of my favorite season - FALL! I'm giving away a FREE copy of A Moment to Breathe - 365 daily devotions that help you find beauty in the ordinary and sometimes messy moments of your everyday life.

Featured writers include: Holley Gerth, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Becky Kiefe, and yours truly...

SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG and be automatically entered in the DRAWING to be held on Sept. 26th. If you subscribe already, then leave a comment that says "Enter Me in the Drawing" (Having trouble - try the Anonymous option.)

NEW SUBSCRIBER?: After you enter your contact information, be sure to check your email inbox. YOU NEED TO OPEN THE EMAIL FROM ME AND CLICK THE CONFIRMATION LINK TO COMPLETE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION. ~ thanks for reading...




Be blessed...





Sunday, August 30, 2020

How to Harness the Blessing

Hey Friend,

Have you ever noticed that the blessings the Bible speaks of are often in a series of If/Then statements or inferred If/Then statements?  I admit that I'm guilty of getting impatient and just wanting to jump to the blessing.  I want the beautiful blessing before I put in the elbow grease of obedience.  

It's easy to want to pluck the blessing out of context from the scripture that preceeds or follows it.  

Personally, I have been praying, earnestly, for a blessing in my own life.  I've been praying for reconcilliation with my two adult children.  I know that what I'm praying for is in accordance with God's will, but I got a little too focused on the result or outcome.  I zoomed in on the blessing, and lost sight of the "If" part of God's promise. 

I memorized this verse as a child in the KJV, and God has brought it back to mind.

But, seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

You see, I was focused on the blessing:  "All these things shall be added unto you."  I'd forgotten the inferred "If."

"If" you seek first the kingdom of God - I needed to focus less on the outcome I desired, and instead, focus solely on seeking God.  I needed to get my sights so fixed on God that I couldn't see anything else.  I needed to be seeking His presence and obeying His word and not concerning myself with the "Then" part of the promise. 

If I seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; then all these things shall be added unto me.

The "Then" is up to God and His sovereign timing. My "If" job is to seek Him first and foremost.




Another favorite "blessing verse" is sometimes taken out of context.  This popular verse is often quoted on graduation cards and, again, we are apt to focus on the blessing without including the obedience piece.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11)

What an awesome promise of blessing.  I'll take one order of that blessing, please! But let's back up to scripture that leads up to this promise, and scripture that follows it.  There are some "If's" involved:

Jeremiah 11: 4b:  "(If) you obey me , and do everything I command you, (then) you will be my people and I will be your God...I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey..."

Jeremiah 18:8:  "If the nation about which I have made the announcement turns from its evil, (then) I will relent concerning the disaster I had planned to do to it."  

These are the If/Then statements leading up to the big blessing in Jeremiah 29:11.  God is telling His beloved people that "If" they obey Him "then" He will be their God and give them a future in the land of milk and honey.

Furthermore, "If" they turn from their evil ways and obey Him, He will relent on taking out His wrath on them for their disobedience.  

Now, let's look at the giant "If" that follows the "then" blessing of Jeremiah 29:11.  When we read further after the oft quoted verse we learn that God says:  

If you call to me and come and pray to me...when you seek me and search for me with all your heart...then I will prosper you - giving you a hope and a future.  I will restore your fortunes and I will restore you to the place (Jerusalem) from which I deported you. (Paraphrase of Jeremiah 29: 12-14)


If >>>>>>>>>>>Then
Obedience >>>>>>Blessing
Disobedience >>>>>>>>>>>Punishment





There are literally hundreds of "If/Then" promises in the Bible.  God is pretty reasonable and just, when you get right down to it.  Obedience leads to blessing. It's a straightforward formula.

Thankfully and mercifully for us, there is one blessing that doesn't require obedience so much as it requires acceptance.  The "Then" comes before the "If."
Here's what I am talking about...

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Here, God gives us the unfathomable gift and blessing of salvation.  There is no "If" that preceeds it.  The blessing comes first and then God asks us the crucial question after the blessing has been given...will you accept my gift and blessing?

God is still in the business of bestowing blessings, but He does require obedience and He does ask us to repent and turn from our evil ways.  In many ways, our world demands and expects blessings, but has forgotten how to obey our Creator.  I believe revival is necessary and it won't begin until Christ-followers take a stand.

What will you answer the next time someone asks out loud, "How did our world get to be this way? What can we do?"  Will you answer...

Now, more than ever, the world needs to hear voices of faith, in a palette of beautiful colors, rising in unity.  With our eyes on the eternal prize, let us tell the world why we have the abiding joy that the world can't extinguish, even with every flaming arrow of evil it shoots at us.

This is a battle being fought on the spiritual battlefield.  We know Who conquers evil in the end.  Let that give us confidence and courage to proclaim Christ's gospel of love and peace to a world desperate for hope. 

We can harness the blessing, if we simply obey God.


ps.  If you've enjoyed what you read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog (and nothing else)?  If so, just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above and enter your contact information and then be sure to look for an email in your inbox that will have a CONFIRMATION LINK THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO CLICK ON to complete your subscription.  Thanks for reading...

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Is This Really Happening to God's Daughters?

Hey Friend,

This is the story of two fourteen-year-old girls named Maria and Huma.  They live in the Islamic Rupublic of Pakistan where less than 2% of the population is Christian.  

Maria, was walking to her workplace when she was abducted by a couple of men who were armed.  When onlookers tried to assist Maria, who was resisting, her captors fired their guns in the air in order to warn off would-be rescuers.  

Her abductors produced "official papers" saying that Maria had willingly converted to Islam and had married her abductor.  Her parents petitioned the court saying that Maria was a minor and would not have willingly subjected herself to these atrocities.  The court ruled that she was to be released and sent to a women's shelter.

Then, in an astonishing decision, the Lahore High Court overturned the Sessions Court in Faisalabad.  The court refused to believe the documentation that Maria was indeed a minor and Maria was in tears when the judges ruled in favor of her abductor. She is still being help captive in this forced marriage. 



Maria's marriage certificate states that she is eighteen years old and a typed statement was produced that said she had willingly left her home, married, and was converted to Islam.

Reportedly, over 1000 girls belonging to the Christian minority community are abducted, forcibly converted, married (and raped) each year.

Huma, another young Christian girl, was kidnapped by three men who waited for her parents to leave the house before forcibly taking the young girl.  Papers were produced by her abductor that said that Huma had willingly been converted to Islam and was married.  

What papers didn't say, but her parents have said, is that Huma has been continually sexually assaulted and is now pregnant.  She is confined to one room which she is not allowed to leave.  Her captor has connections inside the Pakistan Security Forces and has threatened her family if they should ever come looking for her.  



Last February, a Pakistan high court handed down a ruling based on Islamic "sharia" law that says that men in Pakistan can marry underage girls as long as they have had their first menstrual cycle.  

The persecution of religious minorities (particularly Christians) is rampant in Pakistan.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government and NGO's refused to provide food and humanitarian aid to starving Christians.  Only if you converted to Islam would you be provided with food to survive.

This is where Redeemer Christian Foundation (RCF, Inc.) comes in.  During the pandemic we fed, not only the families of children who attend our Christian School for orphaned and impoverished children, but also brothers and sisters in Christ in a neighboring village who had no food to eat. 

Redeemer Christian School is also a safe haven for young girls.  Because they are in school, they are not as vulnerable to abductions for conversion and marriage, nor to kidnapping for purposes of prostitution and human trafficking.  We are diligent in our fight for safety of these beautiful daughters of God.  



If you would like to know more about the work we do in providing a Christian Education to the poorest of the poor, our devotion to Evangelism and Outreach, our commitment to humanitarian aid, and our diligence in empowering young girls/women and protecting them from these atrocities, check out our website:

If you are as outraged as we are and would like to say "Enough" to these heinous acts and do something to make a difference:  Click HERE to make a donation that says, "I care!"

Thank you for taking the time to read this and be awakened to the plight of believers in other parts of the world.  We're all in this together.  Let us keep being the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that is desperate for His love.

Be blessed...Bev (Founder of RCF, Inc. a registered 501c3)



ps.  If you'd like to receive RCF's monthly newsletter to learn more about this wonderful organization, send me an email (CONTACT TAB) and include your email address.  (We never share our contacts)

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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Are You Brave Enough?

 Hey Friend,

I was having a discussion with Anosh, the Director of Redeemer Christian School in the Middle East.  Click HERE to visit RCF website  He asked me why so many awful things are happening in the US?  In his country, where only about 1.5% of the population is Christian, he said that they see the United States as being a country favored by God.  When I asked him why he thought we were favored, he said because the US is based upon Judeo/Christian values.  Interesting...

He was surprised when I told him that there's been a 12% decrease (just in the last decade) of the people who identify themselves as Christians.  We talked about how there has been a falling away from faith and that many have totally turned their back on God.  What he said next stopped me in my tracks...

"Then you need to be a Jeremiah!"


Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet toward the end of the reign of King Josiah of Judah (609 BC).  King Josiah initiated major reform, turning the nation of Judah away from idols and back to God's Word.  Sadly, the reform proved to be superficial for the people of Judah, and soon after King Josiah's death, Jeremiah prophesied a great destruction was coming, unless God's people repented.  You can imagine that Jeremiah's message was not very popular!

Jeremiah's prediction of destruction, however, was was not without forewarning.  This was the message Jeremiah shared with God's rebellious people:

"Return, unfaithful Israel,"

this is the Lord's declaration.

"I will not look on you with anger,

for I am unfailing in my love."  (Jeremiah 3:12a)

Time and time again, Jeremiah encouraged the people to repent and return to the God of their ancestors. Correct your ways and God will allow you to continue living in Jerusalem.  Jeremiah admonished them for being rescued by a loving God yet continuing to commit detestable acts such as stealing, murder, adultery, swearing falsely, burning incense to Baal, and following other gods. 

If you obey God, then it will go well with you, was Jeremiah's perpetual exhortation, but it fell on deaf ears.  Finally the Lord said:

"It (destruction) is because they abandoned my instruction, which I set before them, and did not obey my voice or walk according to it.  Instead they followed the stubbornness of their hearts and followed the Baals (idols) as their fathers taught them."  (Jeremiah 9: 13-14)

Does this sound at all familiar?  Is God trying to get our attention right now?  Are we continuing to try His lovingkindness and unfathomable patience?


Even as Jerusalem is destroyed and God's people are dragged off in exile to Babylon, Jeremiah continues to be the voice of hope.  He prophesies of God's plan for eventual restoration and wholeness and he foreshadows the coming of the New Covenant. 

Jeremiah has words of warning to share, but he also has words of hope and restoration.  Are we to be sharing those words?

Anosh's words hit home to me.  Am I brave enough to be a Jeremiah?  

Am I brave enough to say (write) that we need a serious religious awakening, or revival?

Am I brave enough to share the Good News of the New Covenant that has been handed to me by God through His Son, Jesus?

If God would be merciful enough to hand you the gift of a vaccine that would wipe out coronavirus once and for all, what would you do?

I would bet that you would share that gift with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, everyone, and anyone.  It would be your joy to share!

God has already handed you His Word (the Bible) and the gift of salvation through Jesus.  Are you as enthusiastic to share those gifts?


I have been asking myself the same questions.  God is convicting my heart, and I have been praying that He would give me the right words to say when He opens the door of conversation with non-believers.  I am praying that, in the words of Anosh, I will be brave enough to be a Jeremiah.  How about you?

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for my disobedience in turning away from your holy commands.  Renew a right spirit within me that I would be brave in sharing your love and the Good News of the Gospel.  Let me be the bearer, not only, of news of warning, but news that gives hope and encouragement.  Let there be a revival in our land and let me be an instrument of your peace and love.  Give me strength to be a Jeremiah.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What do you see happening in our world today?  Do you feel God's calling to do anything about it?  If so, what are you being led to do?  How can you tangibly share the hope that is within you this week?  Will you share...

Be blessed...

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Sunday, August 2, 2020

What Are These Times Telling Us?

Hey Friend,

I was having a conversation with my mother who is 86 years young.  With that many years under her belt, she's lived through a lot of history.  My mother is the eternal optimist.  She always wants to believe the best case scenario.  That being said, I was really taken back when she said that she has never felt this way (deeply troubled) about our world as she does now.  

Not even the turbulent events of the 60's and 70's made her feel, even remotely, like the present day.  When my mother thinks the end of the world, as we know it, is at hand, I take notice.

Sure, people have been saying that the "Day of the Lord" is at hand for centuries.  Roughly 30% of the Bible is prophetic writing.  Much of what has been prophesied has already come true.  2 Thessalonians 2:3 says: 

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (Jesus' second coming) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition...



When compiling data, Christian research institutes agree that 85% of Americans do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. To them it's just another religious book.  Compared to belief from years ago, this is a huge falling away from faith.  Most do not consider the Bible to be pertinent to their life.

25% of Christians, with the number growing, do not believe that the Rapture will be a literal event even though it is prophesied in the Bible.  There are varying opinions as to when the Rapture (Jesus will secretly come in the air and gather His followers up into heaven) will happen.  Personally, I believe that the Rapture will take place before the 7 years of tribulation begin (though none of us can know the mind of God).  Why?

At the last supper, Jesus, who was a Galilean, tells His disciples (also Galileans) that He is going away, but He will be like a bridegroom coming for his bride (believers).  No one, not even Jesus, will know the time or the hour.  Only the Father knows.  Jesus is preparing a place for us and like an eager bridgegroom who longs to be with his adoring bride, He will come and rapture her to the wedding feast of the Lamb. I believe that He does not want to let His beloved bride suffer through the tribulation and wrath.  



14 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."  (John 14:1-3 )

I found this movie/documentary, distributed by Integrity Films LLC, fascinating. It's called "Before the Wrath."   https://vimeo.com/ondemand/beforethewrath  It's also available on Amazon.   It goes into depth about how Jesus likens His coming for His bride unto a Galilean wedding.  A Galilean wedding was different from any other culture's wedding in Biblical times because no one (guests, bridegroom, bride, bridesmaids) knew the exact hour of the wedding, but they were to be prepared because the bridegroom would come "like a thief in the night" for his precious bride.

Jesus will come like a "thief in the night" for His beloved believers.



Our job, as believers, is not to be guessing when Christ will come for us. Nor are we to be burdened or fearful.  Our job is to be making preparations and be at the ready for His coming.  What does that look like?

We are to be about the Father's business - doing good works that glorify Him.

*  We are to be telling others about the Gospel - being bold in building the Kingdom.

*  We are to be doing life: doing whatever we do with joyful anticipation of Christ's return.

*  We are to be In God's word everyday and walking it out in our daily lives.

*  We are to be praying and interceding on behalf of non-believers.

I am not the greatest about being bold in my faith and leading others to a saving relationship with God through Christ Jesus.  There are a few things, however, that we all can do.  I used to have long theological discussions with my ex-father-in-law about faith (he was an Atheist).  He could argue theology with me until the cows came home.  But:

*  He could not argue my personal testimony about what God had done in my life and the freedom I had found through Jesus' atoning sacrifice and grace.

*  He didn't say anything when I told him that I loved him dearly and that I wanted him to accept the beautiful gift of salvation because I could not imagine eternity without him.

Years later, (after a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed), he accpeted Christ as his Savior.  He told me that the comment I made about not wanting to spend eternity without him had opened the door for the Holy Spirit to do His convicting work in his life.  These are the preparations we are to be making.

Our job is to be about opening the door.  The Holy Spirit's job is to convict hearts.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be around for the wrath - when the trumpets sound and the bowls are poured out and hail and fire mixed with blood are hurled to the earth; when the mountains are set ablaze and the seas turn to blood. Nor do I want to experience smoke rising up from a great furnace, locusts, painful sores, lightening, thunder, earthquakes, and other abominations.  Cities will be split in two and rivers will dry up and there will be torment so bad that people will long to die. (The Book of Revelation)

I don't want loved ones to experience this either.  God wants no man to suffer.  He wants all His children to come to salvation.



So what can we, as believers, do?

1.  Stop living in fear, but live with confidence that God is in control.

2.  Step up, speak up, and stand in the gap. We are the silent minority that needs to become vocal.

3.  Speak the truth in love to those who need to hear.  Don't let Satan silence you.

People are fearful BUT...as believers we hold the message of hope!

If you are a believer, will you share the message of hope?

If you are not a believer, will you accept the message of hope? 


Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and thank you that you sent your precious Son to die on the cross for my sins.  You made a way for me when I was still a sinner.  I accept your grace and mercy and I look forward, with great anticipation, for your second coming as you promised in Scripture.  Thank you for loving me (your bride) with such love, affection, and adoration.  Let me be preparing and be at the ready when you come to rapture me to the wedding feast of the Lamb.  Let me be about sharing hope with those who are hungry to know your love.  Enable me to not live in fear, but instead, step up, speak up, and stand in the gap until Your kingdom comes so that You may be glorified.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  How are you living in these times?  Do you feel a sense of urgency in sharing the Good News?  What preparations do you think you need to be about?  What tangible things can you do as the precious bride of Christ Jesus?  Will you share?

Be blessed...



ps.  If you appreciate what you've read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog (and nothing else)??  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and then be sure to check your email inbox for a CONFIRMATION LINK.  Click on the link to confirm your subscription.  You can cancel at any time.  Thanks for reading...

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Panting For Streams of Water


Hey Friend,

Lately, I've made an interesting observation.  Once I get past my screen-saver, my laptop shares random picturesque photographs and then asks, "Do you like what you see?"  I've noticed that my eye and heart are drawn to photographs in which there is water.

It can be the ocean, a mountain stream, an idealic lake, a waterfall, or winding river, and my soul is drawn to it with a sort of longing.  I feel as if I've been walking, for days on end, in a dry and barren land. The sun is scorching hot (it truly is in NC).  I am parched and tired and I, like the deer, am panting for streams of cool and quenching water.



As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  (Psalm 42:1)

These have certainly been turbulent, uncertain, and worrisome times.  I am able to be "fine" for only so long and then it's as if someone opened the floodgates on the dam and the tears begin to flow. It feels like I'm caught in the down-stream rushing waters and I'm praying that they won't overwhelm me. I fear being sucked under. These are not the waters I long for.

When I was young my father built a summer lake home, for our family, in the mountains of West Virginia.  I loved to wander on the hilly pastures near our secluded retreat.  One day, while picking wild backberries, I was intrigued by why the cows had gathered around a huge gnarled tree midway up the steep hill.  

I pushed my way in between two females to find a young calf lapping up clear water.  To my amazement, there was a freshwater spring bubbling up around the ancient, well-washed roots of the tree.  I'd never seen anything like it before.  The water quenched the thirst of the cows and the tree had obviously sent its roots down deep in order to provide a lush green canopy of shade for the animals.  They had everything they needed right here. I cupped my hands and took big gulps of the pure water. Only God could design this, I thought. 


 
"They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  (Jeremiah 17:8)

I need to be like that wise old tree.  I need to be sending out my roots by the water.  I desperately need the living water which is God's Word, and I need big gulps daily.  In this year of desert drought, pure, living water is what I need in order to flourish and bear fruit.

One of my favorite adventures with my kids was swimming in a fresh water spring in Florida.  I was fascinated by how this crystal clear water came up from the aquifer that runs below this salty marsh state.  We snorkled, splashed and swam, and once again I was intrigued by the source of the water.  It came up from a mysterious, watery cavern below us. Another God-design...  




No wonder there are so many illustrations in the Bible that speak of drinking living water and never thirsting, waters of life healing nations, rivers flowing from the throne of God, wells of water springing up to eternal life, and deer panting for streams of water.  Maybe this is why I am so drawn to water?! 

As a believer, I need to take in the living water for my survival and well-being, but I also need to be a fount of truth and hope for others who are struggling.  I can't pour out if I'm not being poured into.  If I'm not hydrated, I can't draw up water from the well for others to drink.  

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:38)

Recently, I've been dreaming of running off the end of a long dock and diving into the refreshing cool waters of a mountain-stream-fed lake...you too?!

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you that you provide for my every need.  In a dry, parched, and barren land, You provide streams in the desert.  Your holy word is the living water that I need to drink in daily in order to have life.  I am panting for your living word and only it will satisfy.  Let me send out my roots along the streams you provide so that I may flourish and bear fruit.  Draw me closer still, to you, so that living water will flow from within me.  You are the source of water and life that never ends.  Be with me now and always.  In Jesus precious name I pray.  Amen.

What about you?  Do you feel, at all, like the deer panting for streams of water?  Where do you find the strength to go forward day after day?  How far do you think you'll get without daily water or God's daily word?  Any inspiration you'd like to share?

Be blessed...


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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Declaration of Dependence



Hey Friend,

The word "dependence" has taken on a negative connotation in our society.  It's not healthy, psychologically, to have a co-dependent relationship.  We are at risk if we are dependent upon cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.  

We are viewed as strong if we aren't dependent upon anyone else.  Self sufficiency and self reliance are esteemed as positive virtues.  Every super hero that you can think of is able to rely on themself and their own inherent strengths to get them out of any sticky situation.

Dependence = Weakness

Self-reliance = Strength

...or so says the world.

I find it interesting that immediately before beginning His ministry, here on earth, Jesus didn't have a pep rally to build Him up and get Him pumped like a prize fighter about to enter the ring.  There wasn't any posturing or fans patting Him on the shoulder chanting, "Go get 'em Jesus; you're the Man!!! You can do this!"

In fact it was just the opposite.  Luke 4: 1-2 says:

Then Jesus left the Jordan (where He'd just been baptized), full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil.



God doesn't even view His own Son's strengths as essential.  His will is for Jesus to begin His ministry from a point of weakness and dependence.

Let me be clear that God never tempts us...

When you are tempted to do wrong, do not say, "God is tempting me." God cannot be tempted.  He does not tempt anyone.  (James 1:13)


God, however, allowed Satan to point out Jesus' vulnerability.

Satan's first temptation is posed to Jesus in order to get Him to take matters into His own hands.  Jesus had wandered for forty days in the wilderness with nothing to eat, so at the moment Satan spoke to Him, Jesus was famished.

The enemy tempts, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Satan is manipulative.  He admits Jesus' strength in being the Son of God and tempts Him to rely on Himself and turn the stone into bread and solve His own hunger problem.

Satan is a master at creating a sense of doubt - he wants to make you question why God isn't providing for you?!  He taunts, "You're being denied, and if you just take matters into your own hands, you can satisfy your need on your own." There's no denying that the enemy of our soul is powerful and crafty.

Jesus, in His weakness, withstood the temptation by calling on the strength of His heavenly Father and He doesn't succumb to Satan's ploy.  Jesus realizes that on His own, He's toast, but in God's strength, He is strong.

Fast forward along the Biblical timeline, and Paul (Jesus' disciple) is writing a letter to the church in Corinth.  This is what he says to the early Christians:

Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me.  So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in the difficulties, for the sake of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)



Have you ever thought that if there are areas in which you are struggling, that they may be areas in which you are still too strong?

When God called me to begin a Christian school for orphans in Pakistan, I dove in with my writing abilities to get the word out and my marketing skills to raise funds, but I quickly found myself struggling.  The enemy wanted to dupe me into believing that I could do this in my own strength because he wanted me to fail.

Then, when I wasn't succeeding as I had hoped, he was the first to tear me down in an attempt to render me ineffective and manipulate me into believing that God had the wrong person when He chose me.  He is evil and he is clever.

Yes, God had the wrong person in me (alone)...but He had the right person when I was able to admit my weakness and call upon the strength of Christ to work in and through me.

I had to lay my pride down and pick up the strength of God.

Before I was ready for ministry, I had to be brought to my knees in weakness and declare my utter reliance and dependence upon the Lord. I need to adopt this posture every single day.

Satan's favorite lie is to tell you that you don't need God...you can handle things on your own.  This plays right into our elevated sense of pride.  Who wants to admit that they can't do something?  Who wants to claim, "I am weak." 

Look what Jesus was able to do when He declared dependence upon His Father.

Look what the disciples were able to do when they admitted their weakness and asked for Jesus' strength - they were able to walk on water.  On our own, we can't walk on water, but when we depend upon the Lord, we can walk across oceans.  




Dear Heavenly Father,  please forgive me for relying on my own self sufficiency.  Forgive me of my pride that says, "I can do this on my own."  Enable me to see that when I am weak, it's then that I am truly strong.  Remind me, Lord, that you are always "for" me and never "against" me.  Protect me from the temptations of the evil one who wants to make me doubt you.  Give me discernment to see right through his lies.  Let me declare my dependence and utter reliance upon you, Lord...only upon you.  Make me bold to do your will in your strength.  Thank you for your grace that is sufficient for all my needs.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you try to do things in your own strength?  How does that work out?  What lessons have you learned about dependence vs. self reliance?  Where do you see the enemy tempting you to doubt that God is for you?  When have you seen God's strength be sufficient?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you have enjoyed what you've read here today, might you consider subscribing to my weekly blog (and nothing else)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information, then then be sure to check your inbox for an email containing a CONFIRMATION LINK that you must click on to complete your subscription.  You can unsubscribe at any time.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Am I About My Father's Business?




Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. 36No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.… 
 (Mathew 24:35-37)

Hey Friend,

I don't know about you, but I have had some serious thoughts about us being in the end times.  Scholars will say that first this, then that, and finally this must happen before Jesus returns in glory, but the truth of the matter is, no one knows the day or the hour that Christ will return, triumphantly, to take His people home.  Not even Jesus knows - only God.

I do know this much about God, He is a God of mystery and just when I think I know what's going on, He impresses upon me that I will never be able to fully wrap my brain around His ways.  That's why He is God and I am not.

One thing I DO know is that when the Lord returns, I want to be about His business.

Luke 12 tells a story of the Master who goes away and leaves the manager in charge of His servants.  The manager's job is to give the servants their portion at the proper time.  He's been given His marching orders by the Master.

3Blessed is that servant whom his master finds doing so when he returns. 44Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.…  (Luke 12:43-44)

So what exactly does it look like to be about the Master's business? Consider these aspects:

An earthly son or daughter doesn't usually step into the father's business without first being an apprentice.  Apprenticing involves, learning, training, and preparation.  He/She gains knowledge of the business from the ground floor on up.



Likewise, we need to become apprentices to our Heavenly Father.  We need to be in His word - gaining knowledge about His kingdom, learning His precepts forward and backward, and living out His Word in real life situations. We spend time with Him allowing Him to instruct us. We literally learn how to walk in our Father's footsteps.

Just as we may encounter pain and difficulty from trial and error that comes with learning an earthly business, we, as spiritual apprentices to the Lord, will undoubtedly endure pain and suffering.  As heirs to the throne we are called to participate in the suffering of Christ.

Paul, in the Bible, says, Yes, and all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."  (2 Timothy 3:12)

Eight years ago, God called me to start a Christian school for orphans and impoverished children in the enemy's backyard in the Middle East (http://redeemerinc.org). I don't think I had any idea what would be in store for me as I began to be about my Father's business.  

We tend to believe that if we are accomplishing God's will and doing His work, then all will go well for us - how very far from the truth.  You might as well have painted a giant red target on my back when I stepped in to do my Father's work.  The enemy came after me with a vengeance and has done so, in a myriad of ways, for eight years.  Certainly, there have been times of extreme joy, satisfaction, and blessing, but I have also suffered tremendously in ways I never would have thought possible. 

Our commitment and devotion to God is evidenced in how we serve others.  Our efforts don't have to be grandiose in scale.  It could be as simple as becoming a pen pal with an elderly person in nursing care that can't have visitors due to COVID-19.  Whatever we endeavor upon, there will be spiritual forces in the universe working against us.  We don't have to fear, however, because no temptation can overtake us without their being a way of escape provided.  



 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,  he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The best news is that there is a reward for those who are about the Father's business on the day of His return.  We are promised an inheritance which is eternal life.  And, he who is faithful with what is entrusted to him here on earth will be givine even more responsibility in the life that is to come. 

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.  (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

So for all of us who are waiting on that glorious day, keep fighting the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, and be about the Father's business since we do not know the minute or the hour in which He will return.

Dear Heavenly Father, Be with me Lord in these turbulent and uncertain times.  Help me to trust that you are sovereign and You are ultimately in control.  Give me courage to be about your business - serving others and pouring out your love, like water, to a parched and thirsty world.  Let it be my honor to suffer as Christ has suffered for me and keep me from all temptation.  I praise you that you have promised that if I am faithful with the work you give me here on earth, that you will give me that much more responsibility in heaven.  Let me spend time in your presence - learning and practicing your precepts.  Let me be about Your business so that I am at the ready upon your return.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen. 


What about you...are you about your Father's business?  Are you enduring the trials, tribulations, and persecutions of this world to accomplish His will in your life?  What are some practical ways you can serve others?  Do you feel like we are in the end times?  What gives you hope? Will you share?

Be blessed...



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