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Friday, December 31, 2010

A Prayer for the New Year

A New Year Prayer

Author Unknown

Holy Father,

God of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.

We praise You for Your unequaled greatness.

Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.

Help us in Your new year, Father, to fret less and laugh more.

To teach our children to laugh by laughing with them.

To teach others to love by loving them.

Knowing, when Love came to the stable in Bethlehem, He came for us.

So that Love could be with us, and we could know You.

That we could share Love with others.

Help us, Father, to hear Your love song in every sunrise,

in the chriping of sparrows in our backyards,

in the stories of our old folks, and the fantasies of our children.

Help us to stop and listen to Your love songs,

so that we may know You better and better.

We rejoice in the world You loved into being.

Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day.

We pray for peace, for light, and for hope, that we might spread them to others.

Forgive us for falling short this past year.

We leave the irreparable past in your hands, and step out into the unknown new year knowing You will go with us.

We accept Your gift of a new year and we rejoice in what's ahead, depending on You to help us do exactly what You want..

I say it again, we rejoice!

In Jesus name,


Thursday, December 30, 2010

There's Always Something I Can Do

Today's devotional is a guest post by Glynnis Whitwer.

"Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties."

Mark 6:39-40 (NIV)

Worn out. Hungry. Without resources. Needs on every side. That's what Jesus' disciples faced at the end of a long day of ministry. Even Jesus was ready for a rest. So He suggested they go by boat to a solitary place. Great idea, right? Well, it didn't work out that way.

By that point in Jesus' ministry, people followed Him everywhere. In fact, they were so desperate for His touch, they ran around the lake, and actually got to the other side before Jesus did.

Imagine the disciples' response seeing all those needy people. I imagine they felt empty. Have you ever felt that way? … exhausted by the demands on you … emotionally bankrupt … at the end of your resources with nothing left to give?

Just when the disciples wanted to curl up and rest, Jesus started to teach to the people. Didn't He notice they were exhausted? They wanted to do nothing, because that's all they thought they could do.

The disciples even tried to stop Jesus from teaching, and send the people away so they could do nothing in peace. They said, "This is a remote place ... and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat" (Mark 6:35b-36).

So not only were the disciples exhausted, they were in a barren place with NO resources. I know what that feels like. There have been times in my life when needs faced me at every turn, circumstances and people thwarted my best efforts, and hope flickered like a weak flame. At those times, "nothing" seemed like all I could do.

On that day when the disciples felt they could not take on one more task, Jesus gave them a biggie. Instead of allowing them to send the people away, Jesus said, "You give them something to eat" (Mark 6:37).

Jesus then asked the disciples to present what food they had. It wasn't much, but they handed over five loaves of bread and two fish. Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups (v. 39).

While the disciples did that, Jesus thanked God for the food and gave it back to the disciples to pass around. Jesus worked a miracle that day, all the people were fed, and there were 12 baskets of food left.

I've read that story many times in my life, but recently something stood out to me. Why did Jesus ask the disciples to have the people sit? And why did they sit in groups? The most obvious answer is that in the face of an overwhelming situation, Jesus knew everybody needed order.

What if there was more than a need for simple order? What if Jesus wanted the disciples to shift their focus away from what they couldn't do, to what they could do? Then, Jesus did what only He could - He performed a miracle.

The disciples were so focused on their own lack, and how they couldn't possibly meet the overwhelming needs, they decided to do nothing. Worse than that, they forgot they were standing next to the One who could help. But Jesus put them to work on the practical task right before them, to prepare for the miracle He was about to perform.

As I face hard times in my own life, there is wisdom in this for me. Sometimes, all I think about is what I can't control. I focus on the problem and the unfairness of the situation. Even though I've prayed, confessed my needs and presented my resources to Jesus, I stay focused on what I can't do. It's a pretty limited view of the situation.

I somehow forget that I'm standing next to the One who can feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish ... and have leftovers! Sometimes, instead of doing what God has placed in front of me, I do nothing.

Perhaps, instead of wringing my hands with worry, I need to get busy with what I can control. There's always something I can do to bring order to my situation. It's not a distraction technique ... it's an act of faith. Jesus is still in the business of miracles, and I definitely can't do those.

Dear Lord, forgive me when I focus more on my own limitations rather than Your power. There is nothing too great for You. Help me to turn my thoughts away from what I can't do, to what You have placed in front of me. I trust You to do the rest. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Do You Know the One Who Can Meet Your Needs?

Visit Glynnis' blog for ideas on what you can do in overwhelming circumstances

The Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land by Priscilla Shirer

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can God Use You?

Happy. Stressed. Overjoyed. Overwhelmed. Do any of these words describe you this time of year? If so, you're in good company.

When people looked at Mary, they didn't see anything special. After all, a young, poor Galilean girl didn't stir much interest. And although the Bible doesn't speak much of Mary's childhood, we can assume that it was a very ordinary life. Just like the other young women, Mary took care of the chores around the house. She sewed, cooked, and drew water from the well. No one knew the future that was awaiting her.

When God looked at Mary, he looked beyond her gender and her poverty. God looked straight into her heart, and from what Gabriel tells Mary, God liked what he saw. He saw a heart of trust and a spirit of obedience. He saw a young girl who was willing to do whatever was necessary to please God. He saw a useful vessel, so He used her in a way that could have never been imagined.

Picture a young Mary, probably in her early teens, as she stands before Gabriel. First of all, I would imagine the shock of seeing an angel was overwhelming. Add to this the fact that the angel is showering her with praise. I'm sure Mary was speechless for a little while. I'm sure she was honored and that she felt unworthy of such an important role, but did her thoughts stop there? She could have been so overwhelmed at the time that she didn't think about much of anything. It could have been later that thoughts began to bombard her.

By accepting such tidings, Mary was risking a lot. Think about it, she was an unwed woman, set to be married and now carrying a child that does not belong to her intended spouse. Imagine the shame, the ridicule, the gossip. What would it be like to have your friends and family think the worst of you when you had, in truth, done nothing wrong? Was carrying the Son of God worth all of that? Mary seemed to think so.

As soon as Gabriel is done speaking, Mary opens her mouth. Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. Mary declares, “I am the Lord's servant, and I will do whatever he asks of me.” Are we as willing to obey? When we see what our obedience will cost us, do we make excuses? A better question still is do we have enough favor in God's sight that He would ask a favor of us. When He looks at us, what does He see? An obedient servant? A heart full of faith? Or a partially devoted follower who turns the other way when the going gets tough?

Mary learned that when you obey and trust, God will work out all the details.

- This devotion was an excerpt from a new book I'm working on. Lord willing, Footprints on the Water will be available in a few months. I hope you enjoyed this "sneak peek."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Schroeder - Jingle Bells

I actually did this once at choir practice. I can't remember what the song was, but the director said I was playing it too "fancy," and he couldn't figure out where to come in. I don't know what got into me, but I began playing a one-finger melody with my right index finger. The pastor burst out laughing and said, "She did it just like on Snoopy!" Anyway, enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Messed Up Again!

I've been making my way steadily through the Old Testament in my Bible reading. This time through, I decided to implement a plan that will take me through the Bible in chronological order. It's been very interesting. I'm currently in the book of Judges, and I've noticed quite a trend.

It seems like every other chapter (sometimes more), I'll come across this phrase, "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord." Over and over again! God delivers them, and they're happy for a little while, but then they turn back to their false gods. Hard times come, and you'll find Israel right back on their knees, pleading for God to deliver them and promising that they'll be true to Him this time. But it never lasts. This has been going on for generations! When will they get the point. Better yet, when will I?

As much as I want to find fault with the children of Israel, I have to admit that I'm just as guilty. If God was writing down my story, I have no doubt that every other page would read, "And Dana did evil again in the sight of the Lord." No, I don't worship Baal, but I do turn to chocolate for comfort instead of turning to God. I trust in my own knowledge instead of trusting in God's. I fail to give Him the praise He deserves. I stumble and fall every single day. Then I accuse Him of not taking care of me as He promised in His Word. I go on to plead with Him to deliver me from the mess I've made and promise that I'll listen to Him from now on. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, I am no better than the children of Israel, and it really convicts me when I read through these many passages. My first thought is to condemn them for their hard hearts, but then God touches my heart and helps me to see that I act the same way. The process is eye-opening and heart-breaking.

I'm so glad I serve a merciful God! There comes a point when God says, "Fine! I've had enough!" like in Judges 10:11-14. And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

Was God being cruel? Absolutely not. He was giving them what they wanted. They wanted to worship other Gods, so God said, "Fine, call on them!" He certainly showed them more patience than you or I would have. But even after all they had done, and even after He had spoken these words, look at what verse 16 says, And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.

God still felt sorry for them. He still answered their prayers. He gave them another chance. What a loving and merciful God! With such a wonderful God, why would we long to serve another?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Endure and Enjoy

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I love this time of year. Trees decorated with lights and tinsel. Nativity scenes. Wreaths on the door. Stockings by the fireplace. Parties. Plays. Gift exchanges. The story of Christ's birth. All in all, it is the most wonderful time of year.

The one part that I dislike is the cinnamon. Honestly, people, give me a break! I'm allergic to cinnamon!!! The stores are so overwhelmingly fragrant this time of year that people who love the smell of cinnamon are gagging at the stench. Me? Well, I'm crying, gagging, and trying to hold my breath so I don't throw up in the middle of the store. Cinnamon candles. Cinnamon candy. Cinnamon potpourri. Cinnamon cakes and pastries. And the worst -- cinnamon brooms! I can smell those things a mile away. Our local grocery store (bless their hearts) places them ever so lovingly in front of the bathrooms. Don't they know that's the first place I'm going to go when entering a store? Good grief!!!!

So, with the season of joy comes the perfume of hardship for me. I can't go to stores. I can't go to other people's homes. I even smelled some cinnamon when we were out walking the dogs the other day. (So much for fresh air!) It's a joyful season, but it can be difficult. While there is plenty for me to enjoy, there are also a few things I must endure.

You know another thing I have to endure? Bumps in the road. Yes, just as Christmas is a time of joy, so is Christian growth. But just as Christmas doesn't come without cinnamon, Christian growth doesn't come without trials. We don't like them. We don't enjoy them. Sometimes it's even hard to endure them. But they are a part of the Christian walk. Growth and tribulation go hand in hand.

Now, I could allow my dislike of cinnamon to completely ruin my holidays. I could allow it to cause me to hate the season and everything about it. I could pout and cry and complain. Or I could enjoy the time while enduring the cinnamon.

Similarly, we can allow the bumps in the road to dishearten us, or we can enjoy our Christian growth as we endure the trials of life. The choice is ours. What will it be?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The "W's" of Christmas

Mary wept.

Joseph wondered.

The animals watched.

The angels welcomed.

The shepherds witnessed.

The wise men worshiped.

And what about you?

What will you do with Jesus?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

In a sleepy, snow-covered city, Cora Crowder is busy preparing for the holiday season. Searching for a perfect gift, a fortuitous trip to Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad’s (a most unusual bookshop) leads to an unexpected encounter with co-worker Simon Derrick. And the surprise discovery of a ticket for a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas Ball.

Every year, the matchmaking booksellers of the Sage Street bookshop host an enchanting, old-fashioned Christmas Ball for the romantic matches they’ve decided to bring together.

This year, will Simon and Cora discover a perfect chemistry in their opposite personalities and shared faith? Or will the matchmakers’ best laid plans end up ruining everything this holiday?

Ms. Paul has done an excellent job of putting together a Christmas tale to remember. Her enjoyable story is a modern-day Christian fairy tale, a combination rarely seen. Her whit and charm make the story come alive, and the unusual occurrences throughout the tale give the reader a sense of Christmas magic.

Cora Crowder is a hard-working Christian who comes from a horrible family. Their disagreeable nature prevents Cora from finding the true Christmas cheer. But all that is about to change! Cora is a lovable and realistic character. She is a Christian, but she still fights those daily battles with bad attitudes and hateful thoughts. While reading about Cora's past home life, the reader can't help by sympathize with her. This sympathy soon turns to cheer and encouragement as Cora faces the decision of whether or not to allow her fairy tale to take place.

Simon Derrick has the family Cora has always dreamed of, but come to find out, it is his devotion to his family that is keeping him from pursuing a relationship of a deeper kind. Strong in his Christian faith, Simon doesn't want to settle for just anyone. He wants a good Christian woman who will accept not only him, but his family as well. Simon is the knight in shining armor who sees himself as nothing more than a geek with an eccentric family. His attempts at "courting" are nothing short of hilarious, but one can't help but cheer him on in hopes that he will soon win his true love.

I simply could not put this book down. From the very first page, I was drawn to the characters and into the story. Who are these people, and why are they so distracted? What's up with this street that only appears at certain times and for certain people? Donita Paul has written a true page turner for readers of any age!

I read and reviewed this book as part of the Blogging for Books program by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Groups. I was not required to write a positive review. The views expressed are my own.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Would You Like Some Cheese With That Whine?

A few days ago, my computer froze up. . . again! The really bad part is that I was at the end of the process of creating a Christmas gift on a website at the time that the computer froze up. I hadn't come to the place yet where I could save my work. I had spent the entire day on a project that was lost. I shut down my computer, reloaded it, went back to the website, and behold, nothing!!!! To say I was upset would be an understatement. I was livid!!! I whined. I cried. I fussed and complained. When Jason called, I vented my frustration to him. Believe it or not, my friends, I had a very BAD attitude, and frankly, I didn't want to let it go.

The next day, I logged on to the website to start the process over. I was determined to not get mad this time. No matter what, I was going to keep my cool. As my page came up, there was my project sitting there just as pretty as you please. I opened it up, and it was all there. All I had to do was put in the finishing touches. So what was my response? I said a quick, "Thank you, Lord" and went on with my work. Oh, and I did mention to Jason that somehow my work had been saved after all.

What is wrong with this picture? When things didn't go my way, I acted in anger, frustration, and bitterness. I let everyone know of my predicament. I complained and threw myself a royal pity party. However, when things did go my way, I shrugged it off as though it's just the way life is supposed to be. Where was the praise? Where was the rejoicing? Where was the true thanksgiving instead of the obligatory "thank you, Lord"?

Do you find it easier to complain than to rejoice? To be mad instead of happy? To rant and rave instead of pray and praise? Why is that? Why don't we make a big deal out of the good things and not just the bad? Why, oh why?

I don't know about you, but my recent behavior was an eye-opener for me. There's nothing wrong with being angry as long as that anger doesn't lead to sinful actions or attitudes. However, if I'm not going to take notice when things go right, I have no right to notice when things go wrong. In other words, I need to whine a lot less and praise a lot more. I have so much to praise Him for that it shouldn't leave me any time to complain.

Will you join me, or would you like some cheese with your whine?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Watch for the Symbolism

My Children's Literature class has just finished reading "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis. At the close of our study, we had a long discussion about the symbolism contained within the story. It's truly amazing and easily missed the first time one reads through it. If you have not yet read the Narnia series, I urge you to please read it. The symbolism throughout each of the books is eye-opening.

One of the most powerful scenes to me, however, is not in one of the books, but in one of the movies. In the movie, "Prince Caspian," there is a scene that gives me chills each time I see it. The scene goes something like this:

When things don't go well for Caspian and his army, some of his men try to talk him into tapping into a greater power. Aslan (the symbol of Christ) has not yet made his appearance, so the army (all but Lucy) has pretty much given up hope of his return. Caspian decides to call forth this greater power, not realizing that the power is in the form of the White Witch (the symbol of Satan). She comes forth encased in a great wall of ice that extends from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. To be freed, she must have one drop of human blood. She extends her hand and calls for Caspian to come close. At first, he resists, but soon her charm and magic overwhelm him, and he begins to move toward her. The High King Peter comes rushing in and pushes Caspian out of the witch's reach. Before he realizes what is happening, Peter, too, is under the witch's spell and is reaching out to her. Just before they touch, the blade of a sword appears in the middle of the ice, causing it to crack and then shatter. Edmund (the initial traitor) is standing there with sword in hand. He was not to be bewitched again. As Peter and Caspian stare at the place where the ice and White Witch had been, they are shocked to see the stone drawing/carving of Aslan on the wall. He had been blocked from their view by the White Witch. All is quiet. The moment is sobering.

Isn't that how Satan works in our lives. When God isn't working as fast as we think He should, we go looking for other options. Satan will certainly provide those options. Not only that, but he will get us so focused on those other ideas that we lose all sight of God and His will for our lives. We become distracted and sidetracked. In the end, we're so far away from where God wants us to be, and we probably missed out on the blessing we could have had if we had only waited for Him to work.

Each time I see that scene in the movie, I bow my head and ask God to forgive me for all the times I go my own way. I don't want to be distracted. I want to follow Him and to wait for Him.

Again, I urge you to read through the Narnia series and also watch the movies. While they don't completely follow the books, they are quite close and still contain a great deal of symbolism.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stroke of Faith

I would like to share with you a story I read the other day that really touched me. It is a good reminder to all of us that all things are possible if we'll just have faith. I hope you enjoy this story and that it will bless you as much as it did me.

My family spent one summer vacation enjoying the beaches of beautiful Gulfshores, Alabama. My oldest daughter was about 6 years old and the youngest was 3. We bought a two-man inflatable boat thinking this would make for a really fun day at the beach for the two girls. And so it did, they played all day the two of them in that boat. But the little one got tired and was beginning to look pretty pink with too much sun. So, I took her to our spot on the sand and placed an umbrella over her as my older girl continued to play in the boat. I probably became a little too involved with my younger daughter and spent a little too much time not noticing what was going on the small distance to the water. But as I looked I became concerned as I saw the little boat with my oldest daughter in it had moved far out from the shore and was moving even further. I called to her to come in closer to shore, and she seemed to be frightened and doing all she could to accomplish just that. But the thing we hadn't thought to buy for the boat were any oars. Her little arms were too short to reach across the boat and into the water. All she could do was paddle hard to one side and was just making small circles. About this time, others on the beach are noticing this little girl so far out but no one seems to be doing anything but watching. I'm standing as far out in the water as I can - shouting instructions to her with no success. There's a sailboat of teenagers not far from her, who start her way and then flip their boat. I stood watching her go farther out - then looked to Heaven and confessed to God "Lord I don't believe you gave me this beautiful child for me to watch her float out to sea. Lord, you know I am a pitiful swimmer but somehow Lord I'm trusting You to get me out there". And so went my prayer. The first stroke of my arm seemed to be in slow motion, I couldn't believe I was doing this. I swam until I no longer knew or could feel that I had legs. But I just kept praying and keeping my eyes on her. I saw my arm somehow operating on its own hook over the edge of that small boat and began making my way back pulling her and calming her, when everything inside me was screaming. We made it back to shore and even got some applause but my life was forever changed by that experience. I learned we don't always have to operate on our own strength. But, if we can trust enough and take that first stroke we have all the strength we need. I must say it changed my daughter's life too. She hates boats! But I hope she has gained more than that in the retelling of the story. She's 22 years old now and graduates from college this May. I see her horizons as limitless and I know with her faith she can go wherever God leads.

A very special thank you to our friend Nita for sharing this powerful story with us in our Real-Life Story Forum.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Through or Around?

On Saturday, Jason, the dogs, and I hiked to the top of Little Pinnacle Mountain. I have news for you: Little Pinnacle Mountain is NOT so little. Wow, it was a tough climb, but the views (especially with the fall foliage) were well worth it. It was a gorgeous day, and the colors were simply indescribable!

As we began, we knew that Mitch would have no trouble with the hike. In fact, we were pretty sure he would leave us in his dust (which is precisely what happened). We were, however, a little concerned about Tippy making the trek. After all, she is going on ten years old and has some arthritis in her back legs. But we decided to give it a try, and if it looked like she was struggling, we would just turn back.

She did surprisingly well. She was tired and couldn't even come close to keeping up with Mitch (who could?), but she seemed to have something to prove. She was determined to do the hike and to do it with as little help as possible.

There were several places where she just had to have help (me too). There were steps that were waist high on me, so obviously, these were beyond her ability. Jason would give her a boost, and she would continue on her way. The funny thing was watching her try to work her way around some of the obstacles. She would go so far off to get around something that she would be completely off the trail and usually headed in the wrong direction. Eventually, we'd have to get her back on the trail and help her around the initial obstacle. So while she thought she was finding a better way around, she was actually just making more work for herself.

After several times of this, Jason laughed and commented, "She would never be able to stay on a trail if she were by herself. She goes so far off track to avoid the obstacles that she ends up going the wrong direction. She'd find herself lost within a matter of minutes."

His comment hit home with me. How often do I do the same thing? Instead of allowing God to help me through or over the obstacles of life, I seek my own way around them. As a result, I find myself lost, confused, and heading in the wrong direction. The really bad part is that, like Tippy, I'm just making extra work for myself because in the end, I have to face the obstacle again. I didn't avoid it. I just prolonged my agony.

There are some obstacles in life that we just can't avoid, so we have two options. We can allow God to strengthen us and "give us a boost" to overcome those obstacles, or we can wander around in the darkness searching for a way around the obstacle. By the midpoint of the hike, Tippy had figured out which way is better. When will we?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Greatest Writer of All Time

In our day and age, we have the distinct privilege of reading the works of some of the finest authors of all time. We work our way through the work of Edgar Allen Poe, and the hair on the back of our necks takes on a life of its own. We allow C.S. Lewis to pull us into a magical land of mystery and the battle against good and evil. We travel along with Frodo as J.R.R. Tolkien paints the picture of a dangerous quest where the hopes of the entire world rest on the shoulders of one young hobbit. And on and on the list goes. Writers who have such a way with words that they literally pull us into other worlds, leaving all reality behind. Yes, we are indeed blessed.

But when I think of the world's greatest writer, my mind goes beyond the books on my bookshelf. In fact, my mind goes beyond the limits of this Earth, for my favorite writer is truly out of this world. If there were an award for the greatest writer of all time, the award would go to God. The Bible alone would win Him this title, but His written works go beyond even that.

Words of Command

In Exodus 20, God gave Moses the rules by which He desired His people to live. Not only would these rules ensure order, but they would keep the people safe if they were obeyed. God did not take these rules lightly, so they were engraved on a stone tablet which symbolizes stability and longevity.

Words of Condemnation

In Daniel 5, God wrote on the wall in the midst of King Belshazzar's party. The message of warning was "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN." The meaning was as follows: MENE-God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL-Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting; PERES-Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. King Belshazzar was a wicked man and made some very bad choices. Through the writing on the wall, God was reminding everyone present (as well as all who would read it in the future) that sin will be dealt with.

Words of Compassion

In John 8, a group of men brought an adulterous woman to Jesus. They threw the woman before Jesus and questioned Him whether or not she should be stoned. "After all," they said, "Moses' law says that's what we should do." They were using God's own words to try to trick Jesus. How foolish! Without a word, Jesus stooped down and wrote something in the sand. The men continued to complain, so Jesus stood up and said, "Fine. Whichever of you is sinless may cast the first stone." Then He stooped down and wrote in the sand again. Silence filled the air. The only sound to be heard wass the woman's heavy breathing and the thud, thud, thud of rocks as the men dropped them to ground and walked away. The Bible doesn't tell us what Jesus wrote that day. It could have been the Ten Commandments. It could have been a list of the accusers' sins. It could have been anything. But I believe with all my heart, whatever the message was, compassion was the central theme.

Words of Conversion

Several places in the Bible, God speaks of a book of life. In fact, the Bible speaks of two different books. While the Bible isn't specific on the description of these two books, from comparing Scripture with Scripture, this is my take on it. One book was written before the foundation of the world, and it contains the name of every person ever to be born. When people ultimately reject Christ as their Savior, their names are blotted out of that book. The other book, I believe, is in a constant state of being written. Each time a soul is saved, that person's name is written in the book. In the end, the books will be identical. You may have your own opinion about the two books, and that's fine. What cannot be denied, however, is that both books are books detailing a conversion or a change. In essence, when we are saved, God writes our pardon, and we become new creatures.

So, you see, while there are many great authors to choose from, in the end, there is really no contest. God is the greatest writer of all time, and the best part is that His words are true and will remain true until the end of time. . . and beyond.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Lord Is . . .

I receive daily e-mails from a man named Doug Apple. Doug has a radio program entitled "Apples of Gold." He sends out his radio scripts (which are devotions) to all those who are signed up on his e-mail list. Today's devotion was such a blessing to me, I just wanted to share it with all of you. I've posted the entire e-mail including Doug's contact information. If you would like to sign up to receive his e-mails, simply send an e-mail to the address below. Enjoy!

Apples of Gold

Radio Script for November 10, 2010

“The Lord Is”

Hello, I’m Doug Apple…with Apples of Gold.

A lot of people say a lot of things about the Lord.

We cast all sorts of attributes onto Him, and if we aren’t careful, we will fashion Him into our own image.

So just who is the Lord, really?

I decided to search the scriptures for this one phrase, “The Lord is.”

So…just sit back and listen as I share with you what I found. According to the Bible, this is what the Lord is.

The Lord is God. (Joshua 22:34)

He is the true God, the living God. (Jeremiah 10:10)

The Lord is God, and there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:35)

The Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below. (Deuteronomy 4:39)

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 40:28)

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

The Lord is the Spirit. (Second Corinthians 3:17)

The Lord is exalted. (Psalm 138:6)

The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens. (Psalm 113:4)

The Lord is great and greatly to be praised. (First Chronicles 16:25)

The Lord is great in power. (Nahum 1:3)

The Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 34:8)

The Lord is trustworthy. (Psalm 145:13)

The Lord is peace. (Judges 6:24)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed. (Psalm 9:9)

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. (Psalm 103:8, Psalm 111:4)

The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in mercy. (Numbers 14:18)

The Lord is a God of knowledge. (First Samuel 2:3)

The Lord is upright. (Psalm 92:15)

The Lord is against those who do evil. (First Peter 3:12)

He is a warrior, a God of recompense. (Exodus 15:3, Jeremiah 51:56)

He is a jealous and avenging God. (Nahum 1:2, First Thessalonians 4:6)

The Lord is righteous and just, faithful in all He does and holy in all His works. (Second Chronicles 12:6, Psalm 11:7, Psalm 145:17)

The Lord is my shepherd. (Psalm 23:1)

He is my helper. (Hebrews 13:6)

He is my banner and my portion. (Exodus 17:15, Lamentations 3:24)

The Lord is my defense. (Psalm 94:22)

The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation. (Exodus 15:2)

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my strength, my shield and my high tower. (Second Samuel 22:2, Psalm 18:2)

The Lord is my light and my salvation, the strength of life. (Psalm 27:1)

The Lord is our judge, our lawgiver and our king. (Isaiah 33:22)

The Lord is our righteousness. (Jeremiah 33:16)

The Lord is our God. (Second Chronicles 13:10)

He is King for ever and ever. (Psalm 10:16)

The Lord is His name. (Jeremiah 33:2, Amos 5:8)


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May God bless you today! With Apples of Gold…I’m Doug Apple.

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Why “The Arrow’s Tip”? Each morning, after diligently seeking the Lord, I write Apples of Gold. Then before I release it to the public I pray one final prayer, “Lord, send forth your arrows.” I envision Apples of Gold as arrows, tips dipped in the river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God (Rev. 22:1), sailing toward the hearts and minds of men and women around the world.

Doug Apple
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Wait It Out

Yesterday I had the great privilege of stepping in a nice, juicy pile of dog poop. One of the many joys of owning two dogs, I guess. Anyway, I knew the drill. I scraped off what I could in the grass, limped back into the house, and took my shoes off, leaving them just inside the back door. Why didn't I clean them immediately? Because after so many times of stepping in dog poop, I've learned a few things.

One of the most important things I've learned is that poop is much easier to get off the bottom of your shoe after it has dried. If you try to get squishy poop off the bottom of your shoe, you will only succeed in making a bigger mess (and probably making yourself nauseous from the smell). But if you wait until it's dry, it will usually flake right off, and then you can simply rinse off any remaining residue. Now, aren't you glad I gave you that helpful tip?

Often, in life, we face a similar situation. We find ourselves in a mess, and instead of waiting for direction from the Lord, we try to fix the problem immediately. The problem is that we only succeed in making a bigger mess. Our impatience costs us much more trouble. Many times it's better to just wait it out. Pray about the problem. Turn it over to God. And wait for Him to either fix the problem or direct you to the next step. Either way, it will work out better.

Facing a problem today? Ready to start scraping the poop off your shoe? Be patient. Wait on the Lord. I assure you it will be worth the wait!

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. - Psalm 27:14

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Ship Are You Waiting For?

A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a missionary after the church service. She mentioned that she had seen my book on the table in the foyer and was inquiring about it. Always thrilled to talk about my books, I told her a little about it and about my desire to reach more people through my work. She shared with me that she had written a state history curriculum for her school and that when home-school groups heard about it, they were chomping at the bit to purchase it from her. She now has a steady part-time income coming in from the sale of her curriculum.

As she was telling me this, I was torn in two different directions. Part of me was thrilled for her that she had been able to profit from her efforts while helping others in return. But honestly, the other part of me was jealous. She had people beating down her door to buy her work. I have to beat down other people's doors and still end up empty-handed. As I stood there struggling with my mixed emotions, I couldn't help but wonder, "Lord, when will my ship finally come in?"

A few days later, I was discussing these feelings with Jason. I told him that the only ship that ever seems to come in for me is the RMS Titanic. I've sunk more hopes and dreams than I care to recall. Why does it seem like opportunities fall into the laps of some people while others struggle day to day and have little to show for it besides good intentions? Why do some people reside cozily on top-of-the-line cruise ships while others seem to linger in dinghies sailing through an ocean of icebergs? How come some people are always in the right place at the right time while others of us can't even find the right place? Why? Why? Why?

I wish I had an answer for you, but the truth is that I just don't know. I don't understand God's ways any more than you do. But one thing I do know is that wishing and whining will get me nowhere. No, if I really want to succeed in my life, I need to follow God's will and leave the results up to Him. Maybe "my ship" will never come in, but that's not the point. The point is for me to obey in faith and leave the rest in God's hands. He knows what's best. He knows the end result. And more than that, He knows the best ship to be on. He'll send the right one along in His time. In the meantime, let's be busy about our Father's business. He'll take care of the rest.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Someone Worth Talking To

Have you ever wondered what our lives would be like if we treated our friends and families the way we often treat God? What would happen if we only approached them when we had a need or a problem? How would they react if we didn't speak to them on days when things were going well for us? Would they be offended by our one-sided relationship?

As I look at my prayer life, I find that when I'm in the midst of a crisis, I spend a lot of time on my knees. I cry to the Lord. I seek His face. I read His Word. I bask in His presence. But when things are going well, I treat God as if I have no need of Him. It's almost as if I've taken on the attitude of "Things are going well today, Lord, so I don't have anything to talk to you about." What a shame! I've reduced my precious time with the Lord down to a mere complaint session. I shudder to think what God thinks of my prayer life (or lack thereof). Lord, forgive me!

God wants us to come to Him in our hour of need, but that's not the ONLY time He wants to have fellowship with us. He wants to be a part of our lives when things are going well, too. He wants to hear praises instead of complaints, thankfulness instead of discontentment. He wants us to want to spend time with Him just for the sake of being in His company. Sure, He's with us all the time, but His presence can become so much more if we truly seek Him out.

God -- He's so much more than a genie in a bottle or a spiritual Santa Claus. He's Someone worth talking to, Someone worth spending time with. And He deserves more than our complaints and wish lists.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

Monday, November 1, 2010

Which Way Do I Go?

Do you ever feel like a rat in a maze, twisting and turning, searching frantically for any indication of which direction you should go? I admit that I felt like that all week last week. While suffering from a sinus infection, I found myself unable to go about my regular tasks. My housework went undone. My writing jobs went uncompleted. My prayer time and Bible reading suffered. By the end of the week, I found myself in a deep state of depression and confusion. Not only did I feel that the entire week had been unproductive, but I found myself perplexed in knowing where to begin to get things caught up.

To be honest, last week was not the only time I've been confused. In fact, I often find myself going in circles trying to determine what project the Lord would have for me to do next. Start on a new book? Do more marketing? Write an e-book? Create some devotional videos? Social networking? Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. There's plenty to do, but I can't do it all at one time, so where do I begin?

I pray for direction, but often it seems like God is silent. In the silence, I determine for myself which option I think would be best (which usually means that I try to determine which task would be the most profitable). The result? More depression and confusion. Crushed dreams. Demolished hopes. Feelings of complete inadequacy. And of course, guilt for taking things into my own hands.

When voices are calling to me from all directions, and I can't make heads or tails of what I'm supposed to do next, I go to my Bible and read Jeremiah 29:11-13: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

God has a plan for me. Instead of searching so hard for the next step, I would be better off to simply seek Him. At that point, He will make His wishes known and will guide me in the right way.

Confused and weary today? Stop seeking answers, and start seeking God!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Punishment or Blessing?

If anyone knew what it was like to be the teacher in a kindergarten classroom, it was Moses. While the people of Israel weren't five years old, they sure did act like it. We're tired. We're hungry. We're thirsty. Our feet hurt. Poor Moses! As a kindergarten teacher myself, I found some days to be quite trying, and the most students I ever had was 23. Moses had thousands of people constantly whining and complaining about something. Is it any wonder when he was supposed to speak to the rock, he smote it with his staff instead? Frustration takes its toll.

I've often wondered about Moses' punishment for his disobedience. Yes, he messed up, but after all that he had done right, he was denied entrance into the place he had spent 40 years getting to. It's always seemed a bit harsh to me. That is, until Jason allowed me to see it in a different light. He presented the case that perhaps the punishment wasn't anywhere as great as I had always imagined.

The Bible says that just before reaching the Promised Land, Moses went up the mountain and died in the presence of the Lord and was buried by Him. What an amazing way to leave this life! So, while Moses didn't get to enter into Canaan, He did get to enter into Glory, and He was escorted there by the Lord Himself. Sure, Canaan was great, but could it compare to Paradise? And the company was certainly better. No more murmuring. No more journeying. No more people to appease. That doesn't sound like much of a punishment, does it?

God will judge sin, and He will chastise us as He sees fit. But I often wonder if the things we see as punishment are merely blessings in disguise? It's certainly worth looking into.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Guiding Hand

On Saturday, Jason and I took the dogs out to the lake for a little exercise and some fresh air. As we approached the creek crossing on the trail, I realized I had made a mistake in my choice of footwear. While the hiking shoes I was wearing have excellent traction, they are not waterproof. As long as I stayed on the stepping stones, I would be fine, but one slip or misstep, and I would have very wet feet.

Thankfully, Jason was wearing his waterproof hiking boots. This allowed him to actually walk through the water as he held my hand and guided me across the stones. I made it across completely dry which is more than I can say when I attempted the same crossing a few days earlier. As my foot hit one of the last rocks, the rock flipped over, leaving me with a cold, wet foot. I mentioned this to Jason as we continued our hike. His response was profound, "It helps to have someone who can walk through the water and hold your hand." It certainly does!

How many times has Jesus said, "I will never leave thee?" Too many for me to count! Jason's statement on Saturday was a blessed reminder to me that not only is God always with me, but He's walking through the water and holding my hand as I cross the rivers and storms of life. He is there to steady me, to offer me support. He is there to guide and protect. If my hand is firmly placed in His, He will not let me slip or fall. He loves me and only wants what's best for me. Will I still have to cross the rivers? Sure, but I won't have to cross them alone!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

Jason had a day off last Thursday, so we decided to hike the Jones Gap Trail in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The trail stretches 5.3 miles from Jones Gap State Park to Caesar's Head State Park. About a mile from Caesar's Head, there's a lovely little waterfall area called "The Winds." Our plan was to hike from Jones Gap to "The Winds" and back again for a total of approximately 9 miles.

Just a few days earlier, I had taken the dogs on a loop hike that included the Jones Gap Trail. On that hike, I started at the Caesar's Head side and hiked down to "The Winds" from that direction. When I say "down," I mean "down." You see, from the Caesar's head side, you actually start at the top of the mountain and work your way down. You reach "The Winds" by descending a series of switchbacks on the Jones Gap Trail. Because of the nature of the descent, you see the waterfall long before you reach it.

The funny thing is that the first few times we hiked this trail, I didn't realize that the waterfall we saw from the top of the mountain was the same one we sat by as we ate our lunch. Jason laugh at my naivete, but in my defense, it didn't look the same. "Both" waterfalls were grand and beautiful, but to me, they just looked different. How was I supposed to know if was the same place?

I was reminded of my initial confusion as we hiked in from the lower side last Thursday. As I sat staring at the water flowing down over the rocks, I contemplated how different things can look from a varied point of view. The song, "The Shepherd's Point of View," came to my mind.

How many times do I go through trials, seeing things from only my point of view? I see a fire, but God sees a diamond. I see a bruised lump of clay, but God sees a masterpiece. I see hurt and pain, but God sees a blessing. At times, it seems like we're not looking at the same circumstances, but the truth is we're simply looking at them from a different point of view. After all, it's just a matter of perspective.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Source of Strength

While at Walmart yesterday, I picked up a bag of food for my dog. The 20-lb bag was $12.96; the 48-lb bag was $15.96. The choice of which bag to get would have been easy had Jason been with me. However, as I stood there staring at the 48-lb bag, I truly contemplated going with the smaller size. Why? Because 48 pounds is heavy!

My thrifty side refused to settle for the smaller bag, so I gathered my strength and lifted the 48-lb bag off the shelf. That, in itself, was a comical sight, but I wish you could have seen me trying to get that huge bag in the bottom of the buggy. I was down on my knees, pushing from one side and pulling from the other. After much struggle, I had the bag arranged to where it would stay in the cart. The exertion left me weary and ready for a nap. Just as I began pushing my buggy, I noticed that unlike the 20-lb bag, this bag didn't have a pull-off sticker (you know, the kind where you just pull the sticker off and hand it to the cashier). "Too bad!" I declared. "She'll have to figure out a way to scan it herself 'cause I'm not picking it up again."

I continued my shopping. The cashier was able to use a wand to scan the dog food. I pushed the buggy out to my truck, unloaded my groceries, and then stared at the gigantic bag, willing it to hop into the truck on its own. No such luck. With much embarrassment, I finally un-wedged the bag from the shopping cart and dropped it (literally) into the bed of the truck. As I drove home, I deliberated whether or not I could count my shopping trip as my daily exercise.

Yes, my shopping trip yesterday required a great deal of strength. Life is the same way; however, the source of strength should not lie within ourselves. In the grocery store, I had no choice but to pick up the bag myself. In life, I always have a choice. Unfortunately, I usually choose poorly. Instead of trusting in the strength of the Almighty to get me through, I act in my own strength and then fail to understand why things don't work out right.

Weary in well doing? I sometimes think I live in that state, but the truth is that I wouldn't be nearly so weary if I would allow God to lift the heavy loads instead of trying to bear them myself. God is my strength. How many more 48-lb bags do I need to lift before I get that through my head (or better yet, through my heart).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sin Makes You Stupid

I don't care much for the word "stupid," and I'm very selective about when and where I use it. When it comes to the way sin makes us act, however, I can think of no better word. Want proof? Read this account:

And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. - Exodus 32:19-24

This scene takes place right after God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. During Moses' time on the mountain, the people of Israel had come to Aaron and asked him to build them a golden calf to act as a mediator between them and God. Yeah, right! Even though they had not yet received the Ten Commandments, God had made it clear to them on MANY occasions how He felt about false gods and idols. Still, the people asked, and Aaron obeyed.

When Moses comes down off the mountain, he can't believe his eyes. He throws down the tablets he's carrying and smashes them to pieces. He approaches Aaron and demands an explanation. Aaron's answer is nothing short of ridiculous.

"Well," he says, "the people wanted me to make them a god, so I took their jewelry and threw it into the fire, and suddenly this calf appeared." Talk about your tall tales! Did he actually think that Moses would believe such a thing? Of course not. It's absurd. The calf didn't just appear. He fashioned it himself. The Bible tells us so in the fourth verse of the same chapter. I think Aaron was trying to absolve himself from the situation. He knew he had done wrong, but he was seeking to shift the blame.

Do you see what I mean? Sin makes us stupid. It causes us to do things we wouldn't ordinarily do. It forces us to try to cover our tracks or shift the blame. In the end, it just makes us appear idiotic. Who wants that?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Press On and On and On. . .

Did you know that the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book was rejected 144 times before a publisher deemed it worth the risk to take on? Today, there are nearly 200 different Chicken Soup for the Soul titles translated in over 40 languages totaling in sales of more than 112 million books. As a writer, this is encouraging to me because I have faced my fair share of rejection. This account that I heard just this week reminds me what I need to do to go beyond rejection and to reach success. What's that? Persevere!

I don't know about you, but I give up on myself far too easily and far too often. I try something, and when things don't work the way I planned, I try again. But after the fourth or fifth attempt, I label myself a failure and move onto the next task, always wondering what could have been accomplished if I had stuck with it.

Do you remember the passage in the Bible that says, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you? If you look at the root of the words in the Greek and Hebrew forms, you'll discover that this passage is not commanding us to ask, seek, or knock one time. The words actually bear the meaning of "ask and keep on asking," "seek and keep on seeking," "knock and keep on knocking." It's like the acrostic PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens. Don't give up when things don't seem to be working. Just keep trying!

What if Noah hadn't persevered through the ridicule of the people? What if Daniel hadn't persevered despite the threat to his life? What if Jesus hadn't persevered up the road to Calvary? Whether it takes one rejection or a thousand, we mustn't give up.

Whatever you're facing today, you can find the strength to keep going. You may have to walk or even crawl, but keep pressing on. Who knows what the end result may be?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Believing Is Seeing

We've all heard the phrase "seeing is believing," but when it comes to faith in the Lord, the opposite is true: believing is seeing. The Bible says that faith is the evidence of things unseen. Faith comes first, and then sight. Is it just me, or does anyone else have a problem in this area?

Please don't misunderstand. I have put my faith in Christ for salvation. I believe that He is God and that He came to earth to die for my sins. I believe that I am a sinner and that without accepting Christ's gift of salvation, I would spend eternity in hell. I have confessed my sin and surrendered my heart and life to God. Somehow, that part seems easy. But daily faith . . . that's where I have problems.

When facing daily battles, I find my mind bogged down with thoughts like this: Sure, God, you defeated Goliath, but this problem is WAY bigger than that. Yes, God, I know you parted the Red Sea and led the children of Israel across, but I just don't see any hope for this situation. Of course, God, I remember how You fed the 5,000, but I'm really in need here, and I just don't see how we're going to make ends meet this month.

As I type these words, I'm amazed and embarrassed at the foolishness contained within them. How can I trust God to save me and not trust Him to keep me? How can I believe the message of the Bible, yet wonder if God is big enough to meet my needs? The only conclusion I can come to is that I'm stuck on the old adage "seeing is believing." Like Thomas the disciple, I want to see proof before I truly place my trust in things I hope to be true.

Jesus humored Thomas and allowed him to not only see but also to touch His wounded body. Unfortunately, I haven't been given that same opportunity. What I have been given, however, is the chance to see miracles. These miracles remind me that God is still in control. He is still all-powerful. He is still the same God. And He can meet any need I may have. Could it be that He's simply waiting on me to believe? After all, there are many times in the New Testament that miracles occurred only after the faith was displayed. Is it possible that I've been missing out on blessings because I'm just too stubborn to have faith?

How about you? How's your faith today? Are you waiting on a blessing from God? Show Him your faith, and He'll show you His power!

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Multiplied Wonders

Reading through the book of Exodus leaves me full of wonder and quite a few questions. One question that has bothered me for years deals with Pharaoh and his refusal to release the children on Israel.

If you read through the story, you'll find the words, "Pharaoh hardened his heart." Okay, that makes sense to me. I can see where he would/could harden his heart and refuse to allow them to escape. But many times, the Bible actually says, "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go." Huh?

God hardened Pharaoh's heart. That makes absolutely no sense to me. After all, God wanted Israel to go free, right? God send Moses to lead them out, right? Is it just me or does it seem like God it thwarting His own plan? If He hadn't constantly hardened Pharaoh's heart, how much sooner could Israel have gone free?

Truly, this concept has "plagued" (pardon the pun) me for years. But this week, God allowed me to find the answer. It was there in the Bible all along, but I had never noticed it. I guess I had been so caught up in my questions that I hadn't seen the answer. But now, I see it clearly.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. - Exodus 11:9

Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart? So that He could have more opportunities to show His power. So that there would be no doubt about Who He was and what He could do. So that when we read about the rescue of the children of Israel, we can't help but be amazed at the wonders our God can perform. God had a reason. It was all part of His master plan.

Are you facing situations today that don't make sense to you? Do you feel discouraged and held captive by your doubts and fears? God has a rescue on the way. It may not seem obvious, and it may not make sense to you, but if there's one thing we've learned through the Bible, it's that God's ways are not our ways. They're better! Put your hand in His hand, and allow Him to lead you out of your captivity. And along the way, watch for multiplied wonders!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Taking Part in God's Plan

This morning I was reading through the account of the plagues on Egypt. From bloody water to bugs of various sorts, the plagues were both terrifying and disgusting. But what had my attention this morning was not the plagues themselves but how the plagues were brought about.

Obviously, it was God who sent the plagues, but what I noticed today was that he allowed Moses to take part in each and every plague. Instead of simply turning the water into blood, God told Moses to touch the water with his rod. For the hail, He commanded Moses to point his rod towards the heavens. Time after time, God used Moses to bring about His miracles. Why?

We know that God is an almighty God and that He does not need our help to perform His will here on earth. However, He is also a loving God, and He chooses to use us so that we can feel we have a part in His master plan. He allows us to take part in His miracles. Not so that we will get the glory, but so that we will receive an up-close look at what God has done and can do.

The key here is that we have to be willing to be used. If Moses had not obeyed God, God could have (and probably would have) sent the plagues, but think what Moses would have missed out on. I imagine he treated that staff with utmost respect. After all, it was an instrument of God's power. The thing is Moses was an instrument too. What about us? Are we open to God's will today? Are we willing to obey His commands? Are we anxious to have Him work through us? He can and He will, but we must do our part.

Moses had a rod. What do we have that we can use to work God's plan? Time. Talents. Praise. And so much more!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Way Home Starring Dean Cain

The Way Home is a Christian film by Lionsgate Productions. This heartwarming tale is based on the true story of Randy Simpkins, a father and husband who is torn between the demands of his job and the commitment to his family. While preparing to leave for vacation, Randy is once again sidetracked by work. His last minute e-mail check causes him to leave his two-year-old son, Joe, alone in the yard. After packing up the last of the luggage, Randy calls for Joe only to discover that he's missing. Upon hearing of the family's tragedy, the community gathers together in search of the boy. Tears flow. Prayers are uttered. Friends and family unite. But above all, Randy finally discovers the importance of keeping his priorities straight. He only hopes his discovery hasn't come too late.

Wow! What a great movie! I laughed and cried at the same time. The powerful message behind the story is so compelling and convicting. It's so easy in this busy world to lose track of what's really important. The Way Home reminds us to not take those things for granted because we don't know how long they will last.

I am thrilled to have a good, wholesome movie that I can recommend to my friends and family. The story was clean and free of profanity. It just goes to show you that good media doesn't have to be filled with violence, cursing, and all the other garbage out there. No, this is a great film that the entire family can enjoy. Well done, Lionsgate!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this video free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Childlike vs. Childish

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.- Matthew 18:1-4

Over and over again the Bible commands us to come to Jesus with a childlike faith. What exactly does that mean? It means to accept Him without trying to understand or over-analyze. Coming to Christ with a childlike faith is coming to Him and saying, "I don't know how You can do it, but I believe You can save me, and I surrender my life to you." I think, however, that our childlike faith is not supposed to stop there. Trusting in Christ for salvation is wonderful, but what about trusting Him in everyday life? I'm afraid that's where many of us turn from childlike to childish.

With our grown-up minds, we simply can't fathom how God can (or will) help us out of difficult circumstances. So we plot and scheme to work things out for ourselves, and we all know how well that works (about as well as me trying to find my way to the airport without VERY detailed directions). That's where the childish behavior comes in. We pout and fuss. We whine and complain. We throw our temper tantrums and pity parties. We act childish when God is simply waiting for us to become childlike. There is a difference!

I admit that I often find it easier to be childish than childlike. It's easy to pout and complain. I find comfort in my pity parties. It's difficult, on the other hand, to come to Jesus and say, "I don't know how You're going to work this out, but I know You will. I surrender the burden to You." I find that so difficult, and even when I'm able to say it, I'm afraid I don't truly mean it. In the back of my mind, I'm still plotting and scheming to figure out how I can "help God out."

Childlike or childish? Which would you rather be? Better yet, which one are you today?

Dear Lord,
Please help me today to distinguish between the childlike and the childish attitude. Help me to surrender my life to You, trusting in You for all things. Please guard my tongue that I don't grumble and complain but instead use my mouth for praising You. Help me, Lord, to increase my faith. I believe. Help thou mine unbelief. Amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Words Fitly Spoken

I don't know about you, but I could really use some encouragement today. And what better source for encouragement than the Word of God? May these verses bless you and bring peace to your troubled soul.

Psalm 94:19 - In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

Philippians 4:6-7 - Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Jude 1:24-25 - Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Proverbs 3:5-6 - 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.

Luke 1:37 - For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

I Peter 4:12-13 - Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Deuteronomy 31:6 - Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Monday, October 4, 2010

We All Fall Down

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18

You would not believe what happened to me on Sunday morning. As Jason and I were headed out the door for church, I was making some unkind remarks about a certain person who is disorganized to the point of constantly losing and forgetting things. "That's why I'm holding on to these," I remarked. "Not that I never lose or forget anything, but I'm much more likely to be able to keep up with them." And with that, we got in the truck and headed to church. When we arrived, I received a humbling blow to my pride.

As we unloaded the truck, I looked around for my computer bag. It wasn't in the truck. I had loaded the truck, and I distinctly remembered grabbing it, didn't I? We searched and searched, but to no avail. I had forgotten to grab the computer bag which meant that the powerpoint presentation I had worked up for Sunday School was going to go unseen. Not only that, but I was going to have to rework my lesson since I was counting on having the powerpoint. It's going to be one of those days, I thought, but the day had only begun.

As we returned to the truck after unloading my other Sunday School materials, Jason asked about his coat. I remembered seeing his coat hanging on the chin up bar at the house, but I had assumed that Jason would grab it. He didn't, and neither did I. Great! No computer. No coat. But wait, the lesson in pride was still not over.

I walked over to the church building and set down my bags. I was immediately met by the song leader who inquired about the CD's I was supposed to make for him. "Sure," I replied. "I made them yesterday. They're right here in my bag." Only, they weren't. I remembered putting them in my bag (at least I thought I did), but I tore that bag apart, and they just weren't there. "They're probably in the computer bag," I snarled as my frustration rose.

After informing the song leader that I didn't have the CD's after all, I flopped down on my pew. It was then that I heard/felt that still small voice. "Tell me again how perfect you are." OUCH! You want to know what's really bad? The series I'm teaching on in Sunday School is on pride. It's entitled "It's Not About Me." I could have used to let that lesson sink in a little better on Sunday, huh?

Thankfully, everything worked out. Due to power outages in some of the Sunday School rooms, all of the adult classes were combined, so I didn't have to teach. The CD's weren't urgent, as it turned out. And Jason was more comfortable without his coat anyway. But, man did I feel bad! I am constantly amazed at how blind I can sometimes be to my own sins. I'm thankful for a God who loves me enough to point them out to me. Not to condemn me, but so that I can make things right. Now, I just need to learn to pay attention better so that I can prevent falling in the the first place. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get some serious road rash.