Sign up to receive these devotions in your inbox daily!
* indicates required

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Don't Postpone Life

I don’t even know why I bother to make plans. It seems I’m never able to follow through with them. Take, for example, our Thanksgiving weekend. The plan was to have Thanksgiving lunch with Jason’s parents on Thursday and then an afternoon hike with our dog, Mitch. But somehow time got away from us in the morning, and we arrived an hour later than planned, which left us with an inadequate amount of time to take the dog for a hike. (Let me tell you, Mitch was not happy about it.)

On Friday, Jason had a few morning jobs, but then we were going to get our Christmas tree. For the past several years, we’ve waited so long to get our tree that, when we finally did, the pickings were pretty slim.  We intended not to make the same mistake this year; however, because Mitch didn’t get out on Thursday, we found it necessary to take him out on Friday instead of getting the tree.  No problem, we thought, we’ll just get the tree Saturday morning before we go over to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday evening, after plans for a hike had already been made, Jason received a notification that he had to work Saturday morning. So, Saturday morning after he worked, we got ready and went over to my parents for Thanksgiving. We didn’t leave there until nearly 7 o’clock, so obviously, there was no getting a tree at that point. So, we devised a plan to get one on Sunday afternoon in between church services. 

Unfortunately, Jason awoke with a terrible head cold on Sunday morning, and while we did make it to both church services, he did not feel up to going out in the afternoon to look for a Christmas tree. And so, the area that I set up for our tree several days ago remains empty, and I’ve decided not to try to make any more arrangements for a day when we can get our tree. At this point, I guess we’ll get it when we get it.

Life has a way of setting us on a permanent cycle of postponement. We have plans and dreams, but it seems that they are always one day away. Many times, these situations are out of our control, and all we can do is trust God and His perfect timing. However, there are times when we unconsciously choose to postpone living our lives in exchange for staying in our comfort zones. We see the possibilities ahead of us, and while they are desirable, they're also a bit scary, so we hold back. And alas, our tomorrows never come.

Every day is a gift from God, and I pray that we will treat each day as such—that we will live each day to its fullest. May we not put off till tomorrow the things that we should accomplish today. May we not postpone our dreams for a brighter existence. May we do our best to live in the moment and to glean every ounce of joy we can get out of the time we are given. Take nothing for granted. Don’t postpone life!

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalm 118:24

Monday, November 28, 2016

When God Fails To Give

It seems the closer we get to Christmas, the more greedy people become.  Everyone is in a hurry, thinking that their task is so much more important than the tasks of those around them.  And unfortunately, instead of revealing a “good will toward men” mentality, it comes across as a “good will toward me” mentality.  Christmas used to be a time of doing for others, but it seems that has changed and most people are more concerned about what they're getting instead of what they’re giving.

It’s hardly surprising when you think about the commercialism of the world we live in.  If you don’t have the latest and greatest, you’re nobody.  And if somebody else has it, you should have it too.  It doesn’t matter if you need it, want it or can afford it.  It doesn’t even matter if you know how to use it.  The determining factor, it seems, is that you must have it because somebody else does.  Where’s the logic in that?

God asked the same thing of the land of Israel when they cried out for a king.  I Samuel 8:5-9 tells the story:  And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

The people had God to rule them.  They even had judges who were ordained by God to act as a mediator between God and man.  This gave the people a literal face to speak to, an actual voice to hear.  God made it very easy for His people to hear and understand His will, but that wasn’t good enough.  They wanted more. They wanted a king “like all the nations.”  I can almost hear them crying out to Samuel like a group of spoiled children.  “But Samuel, all the other nations have a king.  We want one too.  Why can’t we have a king? It’s not fair!”

What they didn’t realize is that they were rejecting God with their pleas, basically declaring that He wasn’t good enough for them.  They were also going against God’s plan for them.  He knew what would happen if He allowed them to have what they asked for.  He was aware that it was not in their best interest.  But, because He often teaches us through our mistakes, He allowed the people to have what they wanted, and Saul was named king.  You remember Saul, right?  He was a maniac, a mad man.  Jealous, disobedient, vengeful—just the guy you want ruling the kingdom, right?

I know I sometimes ask God for a lot, and at times, I’m afraid, I ask for things that I think I should have simply because someone else has it.  For example, if this Christian author makes $1,000 each day in book royalties, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t too.  It’s only fair.  I work hard.  I’m dedicated to the ministry to which God has called me.  I’ve sacrificed a lot to do what He’s asked me to do.  Is it too much to ask for some reward?  Some recognition?  It might be.  God may be protecting me from my own desires because He knows they are not in my best interest.  And He might be doing the same with you.

Perhaps you, like me, know what it’s like to ask God for something repeatedly and to only be met with silence.  You wonder if God is mad at you.  Does He still care?  Is He listening?  No, He is not mad, and yes, He cares and listens.  But He also knows.  He knows the future and what would happen if you received the thing for which you’re asking.  He knows what’s best for you and whether or not that “thing” would hurt or help you.  Please, don’t take His answer as a slap in the face or words of rejection.  Instead, view the answer as what it is—a sign of love from a Father who cares for His children and wants only what is best for them.  And be thankful that God didn’t say “yes” just so that you could learn a lesson the hard way!

So, you see, it's not that God is failing to give.  He's giving you the gift of "no," which you will one day learn to appreciate far more than the "yes."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Receiving Our Inheritance

Over the past few weeks, in addition to getting our house in order, Jason and I have been sorting through the inheritance left to us by my grandmother.  While the ordeal has been sad as we mourn her passing, it has also been a bit exciting.  Please understand, I don’t mean for that to sound uncaring or callous.  I loved my grandmother and miss her greatly, but I have no doubt it would thrill her heart to know that her children and grandchildren are finding joy and purpose in the things she left behind.  A practical woman to the very end, my grandmother is surely smiling down from Heaven as she sees her legacy live on in the lives of her family.

At the risk of sounding unfeeling again, I have to admit that it was a bit like Christmas as the boxes of stuff arrived.  Because of our busy schedules at the time, the boxes sat untouched for a few days, but finally, despite our fatigue, we simply couldn’t wait another moment to see what those boxes contained.  You see, we had no idea what was left to us.  It was a complete surprise!  Sure enough, we tore through the boxes like kids on Christmas morning.  I won’t go through a list of everything we received, but I will tell you that I now have things all over my house that remind me of my grandmother.  And not only that, but we received some items that we were in dire need of.  What a blessing!

Can you imagine what it will be like when we get to Heaven and find out what we’ve inherited? According to Romans 8:16-17, The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  We are heirs of the kingdom, joint-heirs with Christ.  That means everything that God has, we will have.  What all does that entail?  I don’t think we could even begin to fathom until we get there.  Yes, the Bible tells us a bit about Heaven and the New Jerusalem, but it also says that the half hasn’t been told.

How long will it take us to realize what we’ve received?  The Bible does say that we will know as we are known, so perhaps the understanding will come immediately, but I can’t help but think that God still has a few surprises in store for His children.  And I believe we will stand in awe at the magnificence of all that we’ve inherited because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

As wonderful as the inheritance from my grandmother is, it is nothing when compared to the glory that will one day be revealed to us.  If you do not know Jesus and have not accepted Him as Lord of your life, I’m afraid you’re going to miss out on all that the Lord is offering.  To inherit His kingdom, you must be His child.  To be His child, you must accept His Son and the sacrifice of the cross.  Otherwise, the only things you’ll inherit will be pain, torment and eternal darkness.  

If you are a child of God today, I compel you to look forward to your inheritance with great joy.  If you are not a child of God, I plead with you to remedy that today.  You can be saved!  No one is too far gone that the love of God cannot reach them.  God wants you to be saved.  He wants you to receive His inheritance.  Please, don’t wait another day.  Accept Christ as Lord today.  If you need help, I would be happy to speak with you and help you get it settled.

I realize that today is Black Friday, and many are out searching for the perfect gift.  Well, I’ve already found Him, and His name is Jesus. Just like the Black Friday deals, salvation is a limited-time offer.  Don’t miss out on the deal of a lifetime!  The inheritance of God can be yours!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

One Day Is Not Enough

Over the past few weeks, I have been amazed to watch the stores pull their Halloween stuff off the shelves and replace them with Christmas trees, decorations, gifts, etc. It happens so fast. But in truth, it makes me sad. What happened to Thanksgiving? It does occur between Halloween and Christmas, right?

Great leaders of the past took the initiative to set aside a day to give thanks. One day, that's it! But it appears now that even that one day is overlooked. Judging by the stores, it's not even a holiday. In fact, the only stores who seem to acknowledge Thanksgiving are the grocery stores so that they can make more money off Thanksgiving dinners. What has happened in our country? When did we become so ungrateful?

Even Wikipedia has noticed the change. Look at this excerpt: "Thanksgiving was a holiday to express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to God, family and friends for which all have been blessed of material possessions and relationships. Traditionally, it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. This holiday has since moved away from its religious roots."

We have so much to be thankful for, and as far as I'm concerned, every day should be Thanksgiving. But, let's be careful. Let us not become so worked up by the commercialism of the holidays that we forget the reason for them. Are you thankful for something today? Have you told the Lord about it? Don't you think He would like to know? This holiday season, let's not take the "thanks" out of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When the Winds Blow

As most of you know, Jason, my dad and I (and some other faithful friends) have spent the past several weeks working on repairs around our old house.  I have to say, it was a lot of hard work, but the results are certainly worth it.  I don’t remember the house ever looking so beautiful.  One of the last steps that remain is to replace the storm windows which we had to remove so that we could scrape and paint the windows underneath.  In a way, we hate to put the storm windows back up because they’re not the most attractive things, and right now, the windows look so good, but we know that the storm windows will add an extra layer of insulation plus give us access to screens should we choose to open the windows (which I frequently do in the spring and fall).

Anyway, we wanted to give all the paint ample time to dry before washing down all the windows a final time then replacing the storm windows.  So, for the past month or so, the storm windows have been leaned against the fence waiting for the right time to be reinstalled.  That is until we had the heavy winds on Saturday which knocked two large stacks of windows over, breaking at least two of them into a million pieces.  Seriously?

Unfortunately, I am the one to blame for the catastrophe because I’m the one who stacked the windows in place.  I had done it very carefully, and for several weeks now, they had fared just fine.  What happened?  The winds of adversity blew, and they couldn’t withstand it.  Why?  Because they weren’t leaning as much as I thought they were.  Yes, upon careful exploration, I discovered that the windows were somewhat leaning against the fence but still standing upright too much to withstand the force of the wind.  The result?  Destroyed windows and a big mess!

That sounds a bit too familiar, doesn’t it?  Have you ever thought you were leaning on the Lord only to discover that, as soon as the winds of strife blew, you were knocked completely off your feet?  Did you ever think you were leaning on God only to discover, upon further exploration, that you were standing on your own two feet far more than you realized?  Have you ever found yourself knocked down and broken because you were too weak to withstand the winds of adversity?  If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you can relate to my poor windows and thousands of other Christians around the world.

You would think leaning would be easy, but it’s not.  However, it is necessary if we want to prevail against the storms of life.  The winds will come.  We know this.  The rains will pour.  Life is a series of valleys, and unless we’re leaning on Jesus, allowing Him to hold us up, not only will we fall but we will fall apart.  If we want to stay standing, we must lean.  It’s the only way to withstand the storm.

As the Lord brought this lesson to mind this morning, I couldn’t help but thank Him for the mighty things He shows me through the most unusual circumstances.  It’s just a shame it cost me two good windows, but, hey, if that’s what it takes to get my attention, then so be it.  Better broken windows than a broken life!

 And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let no man prevail against thee. - II Chronicles 14:11

Monday, November 21, 2016

It's None of Your Business!

The Bible makes it clear that we should cast our burdens on the Lord.  Over and over again, the Scriptures remind us that we were never intended to carry our burdens alone.  We are supposed to give them to God, but I find that it’s often easier said than done.  I want to give them to the Lord.  I know I can’t handle them on my own.  I know that He is in control, but letting go is difficult.  When you think about it, it’s quite crazy and illogical.  I don’t want to give up control on a situation in which I know I don’t have any control to begin with.  How ludicrous is that?

There are times when I truly believe that I’ve given a situation over to the Lord only to find out that I’m still clinging to the problem with a tenacious grip.  I find myself thinking about it, trying to find solutions, fretting over the outcome and even contemplating how the Lord will work things out.  That’s not casting my care on the Lord!  That’s not surrender!

Recently, the Lord impressed upon me an idea that will help me to determine whether or not I’ve honestly given a situation over to Him.  Ready?  Once I’ve given the problem to God, it’s no longer my business!  Yes, if I’ve actually surrendered it to God, then it’s not mine anymore.  Not mine to think about.  Not mine to solve.  Not mine to remedy or fret about.  It’s none of my business; it’s God’s.  Surrendering it to Him means I’m giving Him permission to solve it as He sees fit, and since He knows all things and sees all things, I can’t think of anyone better to deal with the situation.

Do you find yourself holding on to things that you thought you had given to God?  Are you finding it difficult to live in peace even though you’ve given God the problem?  If so, perhaps you haven’t fully surrendered.  Put it to the test.  If you’ve honestly given it all to God, then it’s no longer your business.  If you’re spending time planning, stressing or fretting over it, then you haven’t really surrendered the issue.  Give it to God, then let it go.  It’s none of your business anymore!  You don’t need to know how or when God will work it out.  You only need to trust that He will.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. - Psalm 55:22

Friday, November 18, 2016

Designing Your Own Roller Coaster

There’s an attraction in Pigeon Forge called WonderWorks.  If you’ve never been, you’re missing out on a fun and unique activity.  The place has a little bit of everything for everyone in your group, no matter their age or maturity level.  You can climb a rock wall, lie on a bed of nails, make humongous bubbles and, at the time that we went when they first opened, you could even design and ride your own roller coaster in a simulator.

I knew we were in trouble.  Don’t get me wrong; I love roller coasters.  The scarier, the better.  But I had seen Jason play Roller Coaster Tycoon for months, and I knew that nearly every person that got off one of his roller coasters immediately threw up.  His designs were crazy and consisted of continuous loops and flips and corkscrews, never giving the riders a chance to gain their equilibrium before slinging them around again and again.

Knowing his design technique, I urged him to think carefully as he began pushing buttons to create our ride.  I watched in horror as he selected one terrifying aspect after another, and when he was finished, I seriously had second thoughts about joining him in the simulator.  But, I guess I’m not that bright because I joined him and enjoyed (not sure if that’s the right word or not; maybe endured) the most exciting and breathtaking roller coaster I’ve ever been on.  Gladly, neither of us got sick though that’s not to say that I could walk straight once we exited the ride.

There are a lot of things in life we can’t control, but often I think we create our own roller coasters by allowing our emotions to take control.  Yes, life is often bumpy and filled with twists and turns and the occasional corkscrew, but would the ride be so turbulent if we responded to each situation with faith instead of reacted in fear?  Wouldn’t the ride be smoother if we gave control of the problem to God instead of allowing our emotions to run wild?

Lysa Terkeurst is one of my favorite authors, and I believe it was she who once said, “Emotions are indicators, not dictators.”  I love that!  Emotions should indicate that something is not right in our hearts or our spirits, but they should not be allowed to dictate how we respond to situations.  Emotions are a cry for help and attention and should not be allowed free reign in our lives.  The result is disastrous, and much like Jason’s roller coasters, can literally make us sick.

We have no control over what we will face today, but we do control how we face it.  We can respond in fear, allowing our emotions to take over, or we can trust God to meet the need.  Neither ride will be smooth, but I guarantee you that God’s way is better.  After all, He is the master designer, and unlike Jason, His goal is not to see how many people He can make sick!

 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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Oh, Be Careful! -- A Repost

With the recent fires going on nearby, this particular devotion from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead has been on my mind.


Yesterday, Jason and I took our dogs to Jones Gap State Park. About half-way through our hike, we came upon a section of the park that had burned in a recent forest fire. Blackened tree branches lay twisted on the ground. Leaves that were once green and vibrant now hung limply, brown and decayed. Scorch marks stained the ground, providing even more evidence of the previous devastating event. The woods were quiet, and a great sadness hung in the air. What was once a beautiful place and a comforting home to many creatures was now nothing more than a depressing scene. And all because of someone's carelessness. Yes, the fire was started by a campfire that was not properly cared for. Carelessness created desolation.

As we wandered along the path, I began to think about how much pain and destruction can be caused by careless words and actions. Can you think of a time when you were hurt by someone saying or doing something careless? I'm sure we all can. Even more so, I'm sure we can all think of a time when we said or did something careless and hurt someone else in the process.

We must be very careful. We need to think before we speak or act. We need to rein in our emotions. Carelessness on our part could lead to pain and devastation in the life of another.

The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. . . especially about the things that come out of our mouth. Check it out.

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. - James 3:5-8

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. - Proverbs 25:11

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grevious words stir up anger. - Proverbs 15:1

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. - I Peter 3:10

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. - Luke 6:45

These verses and many more remind me of the children's song that I used to sing with my class when I taught kindergarten. It went like this "Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see; oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful, little eyes, what you see." The other verses state, "Oh, be careful, little ears, what you hear," "Oh, be careful, little mouth, what you say, "Oh, be careful, little hands, what you do," & "Oh, be careful, little feet, where you go." The song may be for children, but it's a lesson we would all do well to remember. Careless thoughts, words, and actions can cause a lot of damage, and just like the fire-damaged area, it may take a long time to repair the harm that was done.

***Grab your free Kindle copy of Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead***

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Lessons From Manna, Part Four

Today’s lesson is a bit different from the others in that it is not based solely on the manna experience.  Instead, it is based on the journey of the children of Israel up to this point.  To help you understand the message, allow me to give you a brief rundown of their progress from Egypt.

God brought them out of Egypt; they rejoiced.  When they got to the Red Sea and found no way across, they complained.  God parted the waters, saw them safely through, then destroyed the enemy behind them.  The people praised God and committed an entire chapter of the Bible to their song of redemption.  After traveling three days, they grew thirsty and murmured against Moses.  When they finally found water, it was bitter, so they complained even more.  God made the waters sweet, then led them to a place with twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees (a paradise in the midst of the barren desert).  The people rejoiced.  But then they grew hungry, and. . . you guessed it. . . they began to murmur and gripe.  So, God fed them with quail and manna, and the people gave thanks.  If you continue to the next story in the wilderness wanderings, you’ll see that the people are thirsty again, and they complain to Moses and against God, going so far as to say, “Is God among us or not?”

Do you notice a pattern?  When things were going well for them, they praised.  When they weren’t, they griped.  When things were going their way, they acknowledged God and His presence.  When things weren’t going their way, they doubted God’s presence.  Unfortunately, it sounds a bit too familiar in our own lives, doesn’t it?  When we’re happy, God is good.  When we’re unhappy, we have our doubts about God’s goodness.  Should it be that way?

I’m going to make a statement here, and it’s going to come across a bit strange, but read on and allow me to explain, okay?  Faith in God’s character is more important than faith in God’s provision!  I’m not saying that God doesn’t provide for us.  He does.  He always has.  Neither am I saying that we shouldn’t trust God to provide or to meet our needs.  After all, He has promised to do just that, so we can count on that promise.  That being said, if we only acknowledge God’s presence when things are going “right” for us or when God is doing some big miracle in our lives, then we’re missing out.  Circumstances change, but the nature of God does not!  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  We can depend on that and know that if He was faithful yesterday, then He is still faithful today even though it may not seem like it.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself in the darkest of valleys wondering, “God, are you still there?”  I couldn’t feel His presence, and the world around me seemed to be crumbling to pieces.  In my state of despair, it seemed that God had forsaken me and left me to deal with my mess on my own.  I’ve been in the place where I asked God to prove Himself to me by working some huge miracle.  I needed to know He was still there and still working on my behalf.  In a sense, I was mimicking the children of Israel.  I was trusting in God’s provision but not His character.  I was good as long as God was doing big things in my life, but as soon as I could no longer see His hand at work, I began to doubt His presence, His goodness and His promises.

It is wonderful to look back and see how God has provided for us in the past.  It is imperative that we trust God to meet our daily needs.  But far beyond that, it is vital that we trust God for Who He is.  He is all-powerful, ever-present and all-knowing.  He is kind, just, good, merciful, gracious and faithful.  He is a healer, a deliverer, a redeemer and a Savior.  I could go on and on listing the attributes of His character, but I think you get my point.  By focusing on Who God is and the fact that He never changes, we won’t need to see God do big things in our lives just to prove that He’s still there and still working.  That’s not to say that He won’t still work in miraculous ways because He probably will, but this way our faith won’t hinge on that alone.

The God of yesterday is the God of today.  He hasn’t changed.  He will do what He said and be what He is.  He cannot deny His own nature.  If God is good in the pleasant times, then He’s good in the bad times as well.  Trust in His character, and you’ll never doubt His presence, His work or His promises.

Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes. - Psalm 119:68

Monday, November 14, 2016

Lessons From Manna, Part Three

As we continue our series on the lessons we can learn from the manna experience of the children of Israel, we come to lesson three which, I have to admit, is one of the most difficult ones for me.  In the Scriptural account of the manna blessings, the Bible makes it clear, in a few different ways, that the children of Israel had to act according to God’s timetable, not their own.

 And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. - Exodus 16:21

First off, we see that God commanded them to collect the manna in the morning.  The bread from heaven covered the ground as the Israelites woke, so all they had to do was gather it up.  But they had to do so before the sun waxed hot; otherwise, the manna melted away.  Therefore, the children of Israel had two choices:  gather it when God said to or go hungry that day.  It was their decision.  Follow God’s timetable or suffer the consequences.  

And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. - Exodus 16:19-20

Next, we see that the people were commanded to gather only what they needed for that day, which takes us back to lesson one, right?  They were explicitly told not to hoard any for the next day, but, as we’ve already discussed, some of the people decided to do things their own way and in their own timing.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well for them nor for those who had to smell the maggot-infested lodging place.  And that leads us to our next point.

And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. - Exodus 16:22-27

God gave them specific rules concerning the Sabbath.  On the sixth day, they were allowed to gather enough manna for two days, and it wouldn't spoil.  This way, they didn’t have to work on the Sabbath as it was set aside as a day of rest.  Once again, the Israelites had a choice:  do it God’s way in God’s timing or go hungry that day.  I have a feeling some people went hungry that day because the Bible tells us that some of them went out to gather on the seventh day, and there was no manna to be found.  It’s possible they were still trying to hoard up for later, but I get the impression that they didn’t follow the orders that God gave them and instead followed their own logic.  “The manna has been on the ground every morning.  It will be there again tomorrow, and I’ll get what I need then.”  But they couldn’t because the manna wasn’t there.  By not acting according to God’s timetable, they suffered the consequences.

I will be the first to tell you that God’s ways and timing seldom make sense to us.  We tend to think we have it all figured out when it comes to the timing of our needs being met, but God begs to differ.  Just ask Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  Ask Jesus after three days in the grave.  These things seem so strange to us.  They appear so wrong.  They have us scratching our heads and wondering why God isn’t coming through for us.  As today’s song proclaims, God will pass by at the right time.  What is the right time?  That’s for Him to determine, but if we trust in His love and care for us, we’ll agree that whatever time He chooses is best, and we’ll wait and act in His timing, not our own.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lessons From Manna, Part Two

In yesterday’s post, we discussed the importance of focusing on today instead of being distracted by our yesterdays and tomorrows. Today’s lesson from manna is the reminder that God will do the miracles, but often He still requires us to do our part.

Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. - Exodus 16:4

God said, “I will rain down bread from heaven, which is my part, and the people need to gather it up.”  God literally dropped it on their doorsteps, but they still had to gather it.  God could have easily rained the manna into their pots or bags or whatever they were using to gather it.  He could have made it like the widow’s cruse of oil that never ran dry.  He could have met the need in a million different ways, but He chose a two-step process:  the miracle and the obedience of the people.

There are times in life when God rains down blessings and requires nothing in return.  He does all the work and only hopes that we will be grateful enough to praise Him.  Most of the time, however, He has a part for us to play as well.  He’ll do the impossible.  He’ll do the big things.  He’ll do the part that we can’t do, but often, He allows us to participate in His plan.

There are people who live with the philosophy of “Well, God said He would provide for me, so I don’t need to get a job.”  Or “God is watching out for me, so I can live recklessly and trust that He won’t let anything bad happen to me.”  Or “God is the Great Physician, so I can eat what I want and do what I want with my body and trust that God will heal me when and if I need it.”  That’s ludicrous!  God’s promises and provision do not excuse us from using the gifts and knowledge He has given us.  God has made great promises to us, and He will always fulfill those promises, but keep in mind that many promises in the Bible are conditional, which means they are based on our obedience to God and His commands.  If we don’t keep up our end of the bargain, God is not required to keep His.

The fact is that God wants to bless us and the fact that He often allows us to take part in His miracles is a blessing in and of itself.  How awesome is it to watch God work?  Don’t you know the children of Israel paid more attention to their manna as they gathered than they would have if it had simply appeared in their baskets every day?  How easy would it have been for them to start taking it for granted?  To expect it?  (Which, sadly, they did anyway.)  My point is, God knows that we will notice and appreciate things more if we have a chance to be a part of it, and for that reason, He often requires us to do what we can while He accomplishes what we can’t.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do.  God miraculously provided a new roof for our house so that we could keep our insurance, and at this point, His work is done.  However, I’m still working on some of the other repairs that need to be done.  He did His part, now I’m doing mine.  And you know what?  After doing a lot of this labor myself for the past few weeks, I will appreciate the result much more because I now realize exactly how much work it took to bring it about.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lessons From Manna, Part One

The entire chapter of Exodus 16 is devoted to the first instance of manna for the children of Israel. And while there is much that we can learn from mamma, I would like to spend the next few posts focusing on a few things that the Lord brought to my attention in my recent studies. These things have been a blessing to me, and I hope that they will be an encouragement to you as well.

The first lesson I see from manna is that we need to focus on today, not yesterday or tomorrow. To quote from the movie Kung Fu Panda, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why we call it the present.” Though this saying is from a cartoon movie, there is much wisdom in it. On more than one occasion, the Bible reminds us to keep our focus on today rather than yesterday or tomorrow, and that is precisely what we learn from Exodus 16 as well.

Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. - Exodus 16:4

As he promised, God rained down manna from heaven every day except the Sabbath. The people were instructed to gather what they needed for the day, no more and no less. If they tried to hoard manna for the next day, it spoiled and became infested with maggots. In a sense, God was showing his people that He would provide for them each day, every day and that they could trust Him to provide for their needs.

In Matthew six, when Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray, he uses this phrase:  Give us this day our daily bread.   Did you catch that? He prayed for daily bread, not weekly, monthly or yearly. No, he prayed that His needs for the day would be met and instructed the disciples to pray in the same way. Later on, in the same chapter, the Bible instructs us, Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.   Don’t worry about tomorrow. God is already there, and He has already set things in order for us. We don’t need to fret about it or spend today’s strength and energy worrying about it.

I often wonder how much better I would feel, how much more energy I would have, and how much less anxiety I would have if I were to live one day at a time instead of regretting past mistakes and fretting over future events. What would happen if I used the grace, strength and provision that God gave me each day to live out that day and that day only? I can’t help but think I would be more focused, more productive and more joyful.

Please understand, there’s nothing wrong with making plans or having a daily schedule, but there is everything wrong with living in the past and dreading the future. The psalmist tells us that this is the day the Lord has made, and we are to rejoice and be glad in it. We’re not even promised a tomorrow. The Lord may take us home before it comes, so why waste today’s time and strength worrying about something that may never be? Instead, let us trust that God is already there, that He is working all things for our good and that we can trust in His never-ending faithfulness. Then, let us live this day to its fullest, leaving the past behind us and leaving the future in God’s hands.

Just as the Lord promised, He rained down manna from heaven six days a week, every week for 40 years. The children of Israel never went without. There was always enough, and they never had to worry about their next meal. God proved his faithfulness to them, and that God is the same God we serve. He has promised to provide for our needs, and He will keep that promise. Trust in that and enjoy today!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

You Are Somebody!

Have you ever found yourself thinking or saying that somebody should do something about a particular situation? Someone should visit the shut-ins. Someone should see to that church member in the hospital. Someone should donate to that ministry. Someone should send a card to that lonely widow. Someone should organize the paperwork. We see the need. It’s quite evident, and we wonder why everyone else can’t see it as well? Why isn’t someone doing something about all these issues?

Perhaps others are aware of the situations, but their thoughts and attitudes are the same as ours: somebody should. I think it’s about time we realize that we are all somebodies. Instead of complaining about what other people aren’t doing, it would be better if we got busy doing things ourselves. Is it right for us to see a need and pass the responsibility of fulfilling that need to someone else if we are capable of doing it ourselves? I don’t think so, and the Bible agrees with me.

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. - Proverbs 3:27

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. - Philippians 2:4

 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. . .Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. - Romans 12:10,13

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. - Romans 15:1-2

 I could go on. The Bible has a lot to say about doing for others, but if you’ll notice the wording, each time the passages are very specific about to whom it is speaking. They are speaking to all of us. You withhold not good. Let every man look to the things of others. You distribute to the saints. Let everyone please his neighbor. Not just someone, but everyone. When it comes to fulfilling these commands in the Bible, we will all be held accountable.

Keep in mind that there are many ways to give and help others. Yes, it may be a financial need that someone has, but perhaps they’re simply lonely and need some company. Or maybe that single mom needs someone to watch her children for the evening so she can have some quiet time to herself. Perhaps that young child just needs a good role model, someone who cares for him and will teach him right from wrong. We can all give of our time and talents,  and most of us could even give of our finances if we were truly honest. But too often, we don’t. We see the need and want the need to be met, yet we are unwilling to step up and be the someone to meet the need. And, unfortunately, with most of us having the same attitude, the somebody quickly turns into nobody, and the needs go unmet.

I’m reminded of the story of a little girl who was walking along the beach with her mother. As they came to a particular section of beach, the girl noticed hundreds of starfish washed up on the sands. Knowing the fate of those starfish on the land, the little girl began to pick them up one by one and toss them into the ocean. The mother watched the girl for a moment and then looked across the beach at the hundreds of starfish still scattered on the shore. She spoke to the little girl and said, “I know you want to help, sweetie, but I’m afraid you just won’t be able to make a difference.” As the little girl tossed another starfish into the ocean, she turned to her mother, smiled, and said, “I made a difference for that one.” That, my friends, is the attitude we should have. No, we can’t save the world, and we don’t have it within us to help everyone, but we could help someone. Instead of passing the buck on to our fellow man, it’s time for each of us to stand up and say, “I am somebody, and today I choose to make a difference!”

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dealing With Depression, Part Four

In our last post, we discussed the importance of keeping our minds occupied with good things so that they don’t have time to dwell on the bad.  Today, I would like to address doing the same with our bodies.  Now, I’m not talking about nutrition here because we already discussed that, though I would like to add that moderate exercise 3-5 days a week goes a long way toward improving symptoms of depression.  My favorite is a morning prayer walk, but you should find what works best for you—ideally something that you enjoy doing and that makes you happy.

Beyond that, one of the best ways to rid yourself of your depression is to help someone else.  Depression has a tendency to turn our thoughts and attention inward, meaning we’re only thinking about ourselves and our problems.  But what would happen if we turned our attention off ourselves and onto others?  It doesn’t have to be a major task or an expensive endeavor.  It could be as simple as visiting a shut-in, reading books to kids at the local hospital or adoption center, tutoring a student (if you’re qualified, of course) or any number of things.  Don’t push yourself too far outside of your comfort zone, but make an effort to refocus your time and attention on someone other than yourself.  You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make.

Imagine the joy of hearing the laughter of hurting children as you perform a simple puppet show for them.  Or the thrill of seeing a man fed for the first time in three days when you serve at the soup kitchen.  Consider how good you would feel if you were able to lead someone to the Lord because you decided to share your testimony to the terrified women at the abuse clinic.  You could make a huge difference in someone’s life today, and by impacting them, you could help yourself at the same time.

Depression is a strange beast in that the more we suffer from it, the more we long to protect it.  It’s not that we want to be depressed, but rather that we’ve been depressed for so long that it has become a part of us, and we’re not sure how to exist without it.  It’s very difficult to explain, but this odd relationship is one of the reasons depression is so difficult to treat.  

It all begins with a desire to rid ourselves of the feelings of despair and hopelessness.  From there, following the steps I’ve outlined in the series will go a long way toward helping with depression.  I pray you have found some help in these posts, and as always, I’m available to you if you would like more information or if you would simply like me to pray with you. 

May God grant you victory over your depression and hope in the midst of your trial.

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:10

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dealing With Depression, Part Three

Yesterday we dealt with the physical aspect of depression. Today I would like to deal with the mental component. I think it’s obvious to everyone that depression affects our mental capabilities, but what is often overlooked is the fact that our thinking plays a huge role in causing our depression in the first place. Our thoughts determine our attitudes, and our attitudes determine our outlook on life. Negative thoughts lead to negative attitudes which lead to negative outlooks, and thus, depression is born.

We all know what the Bible has to say about our thought patterns. In fact, it is very clear what we should think on. Philippians 4:8 tells us,  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Pretty clear, huh? But remember what I said: depression affects our thinking. When in the midst of discouragement or hopelessness, our thought patterns can become so twisted that we can put a negative spin on positive things.

“Yes, God has been good to me, but…”

“Yes, I got the job that I wanted, but…”

“Yes, I love my children, but…”

No matter how good we have it or how much we've been blessed, when in the midst of depression, we have a tendency to turn our blessings into burdens as I talked about in a previous post. Rather than focus on the good in our lives, our attention is continuously drawn to the bad. The more we focus on the bad, the deeper into depression we sink. And, if we’re not careful, it can become a never-ending cycle.

So what can we do? How can we break the cycle if thinking on the good only helps us to focus on the bad? The answer to that is that we have to saturate our minds so thoroughly with the truth of God’s love, grace and mercy that we don’t have the time or capability to counteract it with negative thoughts. Some people can do this by immersing themselves in the word of God, and if that works for you, I strongly suggest it. However, others of us find ourselves too distracted and downhearted to follow through and believe the Scriptures. The same goes for prayer. Some discover that talking to God helps them release their burdens and lightens the depression while others find that they are simply too overwhelmed to even know what to say to God.  Obviously, reading the Bible and praying are important, so keep trying even if it feels like it’s not helping.

The Bible teaches that there are times in our lives where we need to be still, but I don’t believe that depression is one of those times. In fact, I believe the opposite is true because when we’re still, we're only focusing on our problems and our despair. We need to keep our minds and bodies active, but for now I simply want to deal with the mind. Lord willing, I’ll deal with the other part tomorrow. 

Keeping your mind active is the process of filling it with good things at such a rate that your mind does not have time to wander or come up with any negative things of its own. One of my favorite ways to accomplish this is by listening to gospel music, Bible teachings and sermons, and with today’s technology, this is easier than ever. You can visit YouTube, iTunes, various podcasts and much more to find wholesome music and/or Bible studies to fill your mind with God’s truths, and the best part is, most of it is free. This may not work for everyone, but I have found it easier to pay attention and keep my mind focused when someone else is speaking, and the wonderful thing about audio programs is that you can listen to them while you drive, do housework, exercise and much more. Listening–really listening–to things like this will help to keep your mind from wandering to negative things and dwelling on the what-ifs of life. It will also immerse your heart and mind in the truths of God’s word, which is exactly what you need to combat the lies of the devil and the confusion that results from your discouragement and despair.

Here are a few speakers and programs I recommend if you would like to try this approach to healing your mind during depression:

Max Lucado - Search “Max Lucado” on YouTube, and you’ll find several complete series.
David Jeremiah - Search “David Jeremiah” on YouTube.
Pandora Radio - Use the free Pandora app and create your own radio station of your favorite gospel or Christian artists.  Pandora allows you to tell them what music you like and what you don’t, so you can personalize your station to make it fit your needs and tastes.

Again, if you would like my help in choosing good material with which to fill your mind, feel free to contact me.  I’d be happy to help.  The key is to make sure you don’t leave yourself too much time for idle thoughts.  This can lead to big trouble and deeper depression!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dealing With Depression, Part Two

There are many elements that factor into depression, including brain imbalances, prolonged trials and life-altering events. There are also many treatments for depression depending on the cause and severity, but there is one element that remains constant throughout all depression. It is probably the simplest and least expensive treatment, yet it probably takes the most discipline to implement into our lives. That treatment is taking care of our physical bodies.

The more scientists study food and its effects on the body, the more they find that our diet not only determines our waistlines, but also our moods and thought patterns. The phrase "garbage in, garbage out" is appropriate here. In other words, the quality of the things we are putting into our body will determine the quality of our moods and our thought patterns. I have found this to be true in my own life. When I'm eating wholesome foods, drinking lots of water and exercising on a regular basis, I find that my thoughts are more positive and my moods are more uplifted. On the flipside, however, when I'm living on a diet of processed foods, energy drinks and excessive sweets, my thoughts are negative, and my moods follow suit.

See what I mean? It sounds so simple: change your diet, change your life. But, unfortunately, these changes are harder to implement than one would think, Especially if you are currently suffering from depression. When we're feeling down, our body's natural tendency is to crave things that are unhealthy, whether that be processed food, caffeine, sweets, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol or other things that are harmful to the body. When in the throes of discouragement, the last thing we feel like doing is sitting down to a healthy salad and a bottle of water, even though we know deep down that it's the best thing for us. That's why it's so important to establish these eating patterns before depression hits, though that's not to say that it's too late if you're already in depression.

It's important that you understand here that I am not talking about fad diets such as low-carb, low-fat, gluten-free or anything like that. What I'm talking about is exchanging processed food for the good, wholesome food that God gave us, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and legumes. Most people equate this kind of eating as expensive and think that the only place to find such foods are specialty stores, but such is not the case. All of these foods can be found at your local grocery store if you're willing to take the time to look, and I've discovered that eating this way does not cost me any more than it did to eat the junk food I was eating before. And when I factor in the positive impact these changes have had on my health (both physical and emotional), I wonder why I didn't make the change sooner.

I am not a doctor, psychologist or counselor, but I know what scientists are discovering about food and its effects on the body, and I know the results I've seen in my own life. Eating right helps me to think right, and thinking right helps me to be more emotionally stable. So, from this I can conclude that if I want to get out of depression and stay out of depression, it is imperative that I eat good foods and exercise on a regular basis. Taking care of my body is the first step in controlling my depression, and I believe if you're honest with yourself, you would say the same about you.

The question is this, how badly do you want out of the depression? Are you motivated enough to change your way of eating for good? Are you fed up with discouragement to the point that you're willing to feed your body the things that it needs, not necessarily the things that it wants? I hope so, because until you address this issue, I fear you won't make much progress in curing your depression. Our bodies were designed to require the proper fuel, and without that proper fuel, they do not function as they should, which is why there is so much disease and so many emotional disorders in the world today. Most of these issues can be addressed with proper diet and exercise.

If you're not sure that this would actually work for you, I ask you another question: what do you have to lose? Although there will be a brief detox period when you switch from poor eating habits to healthy foods, you will soon find that a healthy diet will greatly improve your well-being, and that alone may improve your depression. So, I urge you to give it a try. Start slowly by eliminating the things that you know are bad for your health. Let them go one at a time over the course of the next few weeks, giving your body time to adjust to the changes. Each time you're tempted to resume one of those unhealthy habits, remind yourself how much you want to get out of depression, how much you want to feel better. Then pray for God's strength and guidance to get you through this difficult time.

Though the solution is simple, I guarantee you it will not be easy. It will take a lot of discipline, motivation and willpower, not to mention a lot of prayer, but you can do all things through Christ, and that includes improving your eating habits. If you would like specific tips or advice on what to eat or how to exercise, or if you would like me to pray with you, please feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help you in any way I can.

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. - Psalm 103:1,2,5

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Dealing With Depression, Part One

Over the next few days, I want to discuss depression.  Perhaps you don't suffer from depression, but I urge you to read the posts anyway because there may come a time when you need to help someone who does suffer from depression, and you'll know what to do.  First off, let me say that depression is very real and is not restricted to the unsaved.  Yes, even Christians can fall into depression.  Look at the Biblical examples of Job, David and Elijah, and you'll see that some of Scriptures' greatest heroes experienced feelings of hopelessness and despair.  Also, please don't assume that someone who is suffering from depression must be living in sin or out of fellowship with God.  I can tell you from personal experience that it has been during some of my closest walks with God that depression has hit me.

Before I delve into treating depression, I want to speak to those of you who may be called upon to help or counsel those who are suffering depression.  When someone is in such a state, they are very fragile emotionally, mentally and even spiritually.  There are no words to describe the depths of hopelessness and feelings of despair that encompass every fiber of the one who is struggling.  So, please, tread lightly .  Speak the truth, yes, but speak it in love.  Make sure that your words are draped in grace and compassion.  I promise you this will make what you have to say better received.

Also, keep in mind that the person may not want you to "fix" them at this point.  They may just need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.  Listen more than you speak.  Take your cues from them.  If they ask for advice, give it gently.  If they don't, simply let them know that you're there for them whenever they want to talk.  Often, it is difficult for the depressed to express their feelings and/or the reason for their feelings because they don't usually understand them themselves.  Just having someone there to listen with a compassionate heart makes a world of difference and helps to remind the person that they're not alone in their struggle.

Lastly, don't lose sight of the fact that hurting people aren't usually logical or rational.  Yes, they may know exactly what they need to do to get themselves out of the slump, but it's possible they've lost sight of that in the midst of the darkness.  It's okay to remind them that they know the answers, but again, watch your tone and approach.  You don't shout at a drowning man, "Come on, you know how to swim!"  You throw him a life preserver.  Depressed people need the same care.  Sure, they may know how to "swim," but often they're simply too weary to keep their heads above water.  Shouting instructions at them won't help.  In fact, it could cause them to sink further into their despair.

How can I speak so matter-of-factly about this?  Because I suffer from occasional bouts of depression--some mild, some quite severe.  And I know what it's like to receive the right kind of help and the wrong kind.  I can't describe to you the frustration and helplessness that results from reaching out to someone only to have them say, "Just snap out of it!"  Yeah, like it's that easy!  What?  Do they think I have a happy switch, and I merely forgot to turn it on that day?

Seriously, friends, this is a dangerous issue.  Depression is real, and it's horrible!  If you've never been through it, thank the Lord!  If you have, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  My point today is not so much toward the depressed but for those dealing with the depressed.  Discouraged people feel all alone, like no one in the world could possibly understand.  It's important to let them know that they're not alone, that you care, and that you're willing to help them in any way you can.  Don't judge, criticize or evaluate them.  Just be there for them.  Listen.  Show compassion.  And above all, pray for them!  I assure you, they need it.

Lord willing, in the next post, we'll begin discussing some key factors in dealing with depression.

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2