Tag Archives: Daily Devotions

Parable of the Plum Tree

But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God…II Corinthians 1:9b

The mature flowering plum-tree in our front yard, with its dark maroon leaves and divided kid-friendly trunk, stands in high contrast to the white Victorian picket fence and white-barked birch next door.  Driving from either way down the street it is the way to spot our house.  It’s a landmark.  But it wasn’t always so.

Twenty-two years ago we picked out the rather long overgrown twig at Dorothy’s nursery in Carlotta.  We planted it on a mound in the front of our newly constructed home and had to tether it to large wooden poles to keep it from blowing away or being damaged.  On its own it was still fragile.

Decorative blooming of a plum tree

Decorative blooming of a plum tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Months passed.  The day came to remove the poles.  The tree had grown to a place where it could stand on its own. and to keep the poles there would mean that the tree would not gain the internal strength it needed to stand against the wind and rain.  For it to continue to mature, the supports needed to be taken away.

Sometimes in life our supports, either willingly or against our will, are taken away.  It may because of a change in health, the loss of someone important in our inner circle, a move, a job change, or a variety of other life circumstance.  We find that the people we leaned on for spiritual strength are no longer available in the same way they once were.

This is a time of decision.

Do we frantically try to find support replacements, or do we allow God to take away those “poles” so that we might fully lean on Him?

While Christianity is lived in community, there are some deep and shadowed passages of the soul that one can only walk with Jesus alone.  In those times we either made daily decisions that will result in either cooling off spiritually or embracing Him more fully.

When we come to a place where God is all we have, we find that God is all we need.

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The Gift of Forgiveness, Part I

We hear often how forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.  While this is absolutely true, in the bigger picture, the ability to forgive others is a gift given to us from God…because truly “to forgive is divine.”  Within ourselves we human beings just don’t seem to have the capacity to wipe others slate clean in our minds and hearts on our own power.  Our form of forgiveness is convoluted with strings attached, hidden pockets of pain and bitterness that surface at the most inconvenient times – complete with elephant-type memories regarding the deeply painful acts and attitudes toward us.  How we struggle with forgiveness!  Pure forgiveness is indeed a freely-given gift from the only perfect forgiver, Jesus Christ.

The Lord's Prayer (1886-1896) from the series ...

The Lord’s Prayer (1886-1896) from the series The Life of Christ, Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know we are supposed to forgive.  The Lord’s prayer, reads in part:

and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness

Forgiveness (Photo credit: poportis)

This is clearly not an option, but a command from God who has forgiven us – that we MUST forgive those who have inflicted pain upon us to have a clear relationship with God.  But, oh how we struggle!

In a sense, granting forgiveness is like hitting bottom with a drug or alcohol addiction.  What finally causes one to surrender is unique to each person.  Those who love an addict agonize in prayer over them and keep hoping that each new crisis or even happy “big life moment” will be THAT THING that will cause that one to admit there is a problem, surrender to Christ and submit to a program that will help them overcome their addiction.  But that turning point is indeed different for every person who has made that huge u-turn in life.  And so it is with forgiveness.  For the person who knows they need to forgive and willingly travels that journey toward totally releasing that person or group of people in their lives that has caused pain, the point of letting go mentally and emotionally differs.

But God is faithful.  Forgiveness is for real.  If we are seeking to obey Him in this area, He will provide that necessary ability to forgive fully, but it is a journey.  It is a process.  The gift of forgiveness – the ability from God to forgive others is a sweetness to our soul.  It brings smiles and relief and often times reconciliation and tenderness to a relationship that looked like it was beyond recovery.  Forgiveness is a miracle.

Forgiveness is and isn’t many things.

Forgiveness does not mean that we minimize what that person has done.  Forgiveness most certainly will cost us in some way.  We may have to endure the consequences for the other person’s sin against us, and perhaps for a very long time.  Forgiveness does not mean we necessarily go back to “life as normal.”  The act of forgiveness sometimes means that we are separated from that person, yet our hearts are at peace.  Sometimes, the relationship becomes stronger and more connected with granting forgiveness.  We do not have power over the outcome of granting forgiveness, but obeying God by forgiving is always for our good.  The is greatness and exhilaration in the peace that God provides to our souls when we forgive.

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Forgiveness lesson from flowers (Photo credit: juliejordanscott)

Forgiveness is freedom.  We give up the notion to desire any punishment or ill will toward that person in our minds.  We can pray that God will bless them and mean it, and go on with our lives.  We find ourselves to be “bigger”, stronger, more generous and sweeter human beings.  The best part of forgiveness is that it opens the doorway to run to God full throttle, leaping up into His arms and experiencing that sweet communion that cannot be described in words.  There is nothing between God and ourselves when we willingly forgive others, and in the process admit our own sins and weaknesses.

Our hearts are softened by granting forgiveness.  This too is a gift from God.

I will given them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they wil truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20

 

 

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Tug of War

There’s a tug of war in the believer’s heart and one side wants what it wants when it wants.  That’s the self.  On the other side is the part of our heart that truly wants to please our Maker.  On our journey with Christ spiritual growth means that the side that wants to please the Lord is gaining the upper hand.  Oh, how our culture screams in the opposite direction!  We hear a lot about “me.”  “Me time,” “What’s best for me,” “What makes me happy.”  We tend to hear and “I love Jesus” rather than “Jesus loves me.”

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do we know if we love Jesus?  Is it primarily a feeling or an intellectual nod to the things He said or what we think about Him? Do we “love Jesus” because He is cool or fashionable?   A writer named John in the Bible said it pretty plainly:

But those who obey God‘s Word truly show how completely they love Him.  That is how we know we are living in Him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.  I John 2:5-6 (NLT)

Obedience and following His example…two things that do not come “naturally” to the human heart!  It’s against our grain – contrary to our independent, seemingly “self-sufficient” nature!  But why should it surprise us that loving God means to be obedient to Him and follow His example?  Don’t we want this from our children?  As parents we want what is best for them, and we recognize being able to take direction even if they don’t understand it is for their own benefit and protection.  No!  Do not put your finger in that light socket!  No, do not run into the street!  No, do not drink that orange scented shampoo!

As parents having our children simply say they love us but reject our instruction and example would indicate that there is no real love at all – just maybe a warm fuzzy affection, at times.  God could have created us without a free will and made us completely obedient beings.  But genuine love cannot exist without the ability to make a decision of our own free will –  from the heart – to obey even when we don’t understand or feel like it.

The only reliable means of measuring our love for God is to examine whether we obey Him.  – From Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom

 

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Tenderhearted

As we lay down for a bedtime story my little five-year old granddaughter listened as I told her about the anointing of David to be King of Israel, even though he was just the baby in the family and not even thought worthy of consideration.  God looks at our hearts, I explained to her.  People just look at our outsides, God sees everything within.

Israel

Israel (Photo credit: tamar_levine)

The human heart can only be judged by God alone.  We sometimes think we know another person’s motives, but truly, God alone knows motive.  Oh, for the ability to see people as God does – from the heart perspective!  How thankful I am that God deals with me according to my heart – not my popularity, looks, financial situation, fame or any such external.

God the Father 05

God the Father 05 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

It is so easy to get caught up in the way others view us – and that can have an effect on the condition of our hearts.  We ought often to remember that we play to a “one man audience,” and His opinion of us is the one that counts.  God knows how prone we are to allow other people and situations and things to become more important to us than they should.  The Old Testament speaks a lot of about the worship of idols which seem unrealistic and bizarre to us now, but the heart of people remain the same.  We tend to put other things in the place in our heart reserved for God alone – and that always causes trouble.   It starts spiritual heart disease, and changes our spiritual health.  It solidifies our hearts when they were meant to be soft and tender.  David was called a man after God’s own heart – because of the condition of his heart.  He still did things wronged and committed some devastating sins.  But when he repented he did it with his whole being and his heart condition returned to a gentle state before the Lord.

The prophet Ezekiel gave us words of hope for the human heart:

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new Spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and given them a tender responsive heart so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20.

God the Father 01

God the Father 01 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

There are many things that can be instruments to harden our hearts – disappointments, hurts, betrayal, rejection, financial reversals, tragedy, and the list goes on.  A human heart either becomes harder or softer one tiny decision at a time.  Turning to God exactly at that moment when our hearts hurt allows positive change to take place.  It’s a daily surrender.  Being able to trust God even when life is hard restores our hearts to its tenderness, giving us supernatural peace to face our circumstances and genuine hope to help others along the way.

 

 

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Guarding Your Heart When Making Decisions

Making decisions is a time of increased vulnerability.  We open ourselves up to possibilities or ideas that  we had not considered before.  We search for wisdom and wonder who to listen to and what to believe.  We question.  We pray.

As a self-employed person, once again, everyday I am met with new decisions that are laying the foundation of this new “adventure” in my life.  I need to access each day how to meet my art business commitments, how to do my best work in these circumstances, consider how to build my financial base for the future and at the same time care for my family who deserve my best attention.  Some days go smoothly, and some days I get it wrong!  There is a lot to think about.  Oh how I need the wisdom of God in making everyday decisions!

It may be that the set of circumstances before us are something we did not think could ever happen – to us.  Life might have thrown us a curve ball.  We re-examine our foundations and make a spiritual decision on how our faith colors our current situation.  Here are some wise words from Proverbs:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.  Avoid all perverse talk;  stay away from corrupt speech.  Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.  Mark out a straight path.  Don’t get sidetracked;  keep your feet from following evil.”  Proverbs 4:23-27

In her book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard writes a powerful allegory of a journey.  As a fearful person she finds people along the way that try to tear her down.  Their names are Bitterness, Resentment, Pride, Craven Fear and Self-Pity.  At every juncture the main character must make choices that guard her heart against such influences and keep her fixed on the path ahead, with all its difficulties at times perplexing passages.

Decision making can be one of those perplexing passages.  We may feel somewhat in the dark or that we have been set back on a shelf of inactivity for the things of the Lord.  To take care of immediate needs we embrace the job ahead but may wonder, how is this a part of your plan, Lord?  It is good to remember that God is still working in this time of decision making and we can trust Him and His ways no matter how it may look to us at the time.  As we guard our heart and fix our minds on Jesus, He does use all things together for good.  There is great spiritual purpose ahead for the child of God that steadfastly believes, trusts and obeys in the Lord.

We are not meant to always linger in the dark, or stay in the closet;  presently we shall be summoned to take our place in the rush and storm of life; and when that moment comes, we are to speak and proclaim what we have learned.  – Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Storms in the Desert

The life of faith in Jesus Christ means everything when faced with decisions.  If we believe that He is worthy of our trust and confidence that submitting to His plan for this juncture of our lives results in peace.  And what a sweet gift as we place our future in His hands.

 

 

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Decision Making and the Will of God

Flipping a coin, going through open doors, and goosebumps are all something we hear when people talk about making decisions.  Fear of making a wrong decision can paralyze us into inactivity.  Acting spontaneously or going by feeling alone can lead us to long-lasting undesirable consequences.  As believers, an oft-spoken prayer in the area of decision-making is to ask for God’s will to be done and then for spiritual wisdom.

As I read of King Solomon’s life in the book of I Kings, I was impacted by the fact that wise decisions in one season of life does not automatically mean a life where sound judgments continue!  King Solomon “had it all” after he asked God, above everything, to give him wisdom to lead his people.  God was well-pleased with such a prayer and granted Solomon not only wisdom but riches and respect from those around him.  Solomon did some tremendous things!

Piero della Francesca: Legend of the True Cros...

Piero della Francesca: Legend of the True Cross – the Queen of Sheba Meeting with Solomon , Detail. (c. 1452-66, Fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo, Italy) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But decisions are a day-by-day occurence and a little less conviction one day followed by a teensy weensy slide into mediocrity the next eventually produces a downward slide of epic proportions.  Solomon, the builder of the great temple, eventually found himself worshiping false gods to please his many wives.  There are many bad decisions represented in that last sad sentence!

How often in life we know people who have had a season of sound decision-making based on seeking God’s will and months or years later we find that same person miles away from where they once were spiritually.  What can happen to other people can happen to us – no one is immune from the enemy’s attacks.  One of Satan’s craftiest ploys is in drawing people away one little “innocent” decision at a time.

Such reality can keep us on our knees, especially when there is a decision to be made.  For weapons, in this spiritual battle of decision-making, we have the Bible as a compass, prayer to bring us into God’s presence, wise counsel from godly Christ followers, God-directed circumstances, the shield of faith to ward off stabs of unbelief and especially the peace of God which works even in situations we do not understand.

Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.  Joshua 23:8 (NLT)

 

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Blended Family and the Hearing Aid Incident

A “Blended Family” is as common as what some would call a “Traditional Family unit” in our culture.  Ours is a blended extended family and one of the resulting factors is we have an age span difference of eighty-five years within our household.  In former eras there were both blessings and challenges attached to the family of multi-generations living under the same roof.  In this post I am sharing one snippet from the “blessings in disguise” category.

So, it started with a grandparent of ninety years of age, interacting with a five-year old grandchild.  They were laughing and playing, as senior adults and young children tend to have this special wave length of fun and frivolity.   The rest of us know we can’t quite enter in to their perspective for we are in our middle-aged uptight hyper-responsible to-do list season of life.  So, I sometimes watch with wonder.

Suddenly there is a little crash.  A little expensive crash. Keep in mind that just a few days prior I had resigned a position to an organization with which I had thirteen plus years experience and the financial security that accompanied that scenario.  I was beginning to launch a new home-based business knowing that even if it became successful there would be a time interval in which our financial situation would be tight.  The small piece of equipment that shattered on our laminate floor was a hearing aid.  Do you know how much hearing aids cost?  My heart sank.  Of all times!

Hearing aids. Photo taken in the United States.

Hearing aids. Photo taken in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the weeks came and went with this grandfather having an extra amount of difficulty hearing, and with me believing that the incident was one of those extra trials of life.  I was wrong.

We would not have looked into the possibility of the Veterans Administration program’s for Vet’s hearing aids, especially for those whose hearing was damaged by some of the various war-time activities.  But because of the situation we were motivated to try this avenue.  And the result?  New hearing aids are on the way – better hearing aids at that and they will not cost us in this financially strapped season of life!  A blessing in disguise, for the hearing abilities in our home of many generations should increase and that will be an encouragement for all.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness;  His mercies begin afresh each morning.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;  therefore I will hope in Him!”  The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him.  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.”  Lamentations 3:22-26 (NLT)

Lord, remind me when I assume that something is a test or a trial, that perhaps it is an instrument in your hand for a blessing in disguise.

 

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What is God up to?

Crossroads seem to abound on the highway of life.  We are presented with decisions and often the circumstance dictates that if we choose to ignore the reality of the situation and do not respond, truly, “not to decide IS to decide.”  It can be overwhelming at times.  If we take the mindset that we are the captain of our own souls there is incredible pressure, because the supposed outcome would be all up to us.  It is with a great sense of relief that I believe and know to the marrow that indeed, I am NOT the captain of my soul.  With an ongrowing trust I place that title on Jesus.  Ahhh, now that feels better.

The Bible presents the believer with absolutely amazing and life changing guidance if we would but grasp it and lean into what is available to us – consider this:

Then you will understand what is right, just and fair, and you will find the right way to go.  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.  Wise choices will watch over you, understanding will keep you safe.”  Proverbs 2:9-11

Roads and Highways

Roads and Highways (Photo credit: ClaraDon)

Crossroads often provide those instruments God uses to direct us if we would open our eyes to the possibilities.  On the surface some of these crossroads seem like obstacles.  Mrs. Charles E. Cowman writes in Storms in the Desert:

It lies with each of us to choose which they shall be.  It all depends, not upon what these events are, but upon how we take them.

And the author also goes on to warn us:

The Lord cannot do much with a crushed soul, hence the adversary’s attempt to push the Lord’s people into despair and hopelessness over the condition of themselves, or of the church.

When at a crossroad, taking Bible in hand and approaching God with a heart of trust and obedience, we can find the seemingly “dead end” a new trail and new journey ahead.  What is God up to on this new road?

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The Strength of a Broken Heart

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ – His power of life over death.  That is truly good news in a world where death is a part of life and people we know and love are hurting from great losses.  That is reality.  Ruth Graham, daughter of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham wrote a book called In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart.  We never know in our casual encounters with people how someone might be shouldering great hurt or loss underneath that smiling exterior.  Broken hearts abound.

As a former church counselor, I can look out over an Easter service of 1,000 and be very cognizant of the many broken hearts represented.  Many have been in my office as we have talked, listened, prayed, searched the Bible for direction and cried together.  How do we deal adequately with our broken hearts?

Tim Grissom, co-author of Seeking Him, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, shares how his wife Janiece was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Laternal Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  When she died at age forty-one she left a grieving husband and four heart-broken children.  He describes the “earthly reality” of their circumstances as: painful, dreadful, overwhelming.   At the same time Grissom recognized a “heavenly reality” that gave them hope.  The awareness of God’s presence through this tumultuous time both “covered” and “carried” them.  He describes that during this time “He was escorting us through the grief and protecting us from being mortally wounded by it.”  Grief, with hope.

What gives hope to our broken hearts is that God is accomplishing something through our time of grief and loss if we will but allow Him to keep our hearts soft, and not becoming bitter, in the process.  A broken heart is a heart that swells with compassion.  A broken heart can attempt great things here on planet earth being driven by an inner push to help someone else so that they will not have to suffer in the same way.  A broken heart has the opportunity to be strong for others and giving hope in seemingly hopeless situations.  A broken heart can share the love of Christ like no other, for it by our suffering we enter in to an intimate communion with Christ.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude He had, and be ready to suffer, too.  For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.  You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  I Peter 4:1-2 (NLT)

Suffering can purify, can clarify our callings and cause us to run our race with endurance, giving us great confidence to perform the work for which He has called us.  Is your heart being broken?  Then know that God has great purpose and plans ahead.

 

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Insomnia, Yet Singing for Joy

Do your problems keep you up at night?  There is something about troubles that send us running to God.  Oh, we’d like to think that if our lives were peaceful and all our prayer requests were granted immediately (and in the way we would like) that we would be so thankful to God that we would stay ever close to Him.  But that is not human nature.  Rare is the person who would seek out God when life is going really well.  We lean toward  the myth of self-sufficiency, and when life is going smooth, it feeds our thought that we can do it all on our own.  Blessed is the person who knows that God alone is the source of our help and security, even if it has taken trouble and heart ache to realize this truth.

David, the writer of many Psalms, was often on the run from trouble.  While in the wilderness of Judah he penned these words:

I lie awake thinking of You,

meditating on You through the night.

Because You are my helper,

I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to You

Your strong right hand holds me securely.

Psalm 63:6-8 (NLT)

David’s problems were not small when he wrote this.  People were lying about him, plotting to destroy him and kill him.  Big stuff.  Yet, David sang for joy in the midst of his problems.  David, instead of fretting through the night, made a conscious effort to think about the Lord and meditate on Him through the night.

If your problems keep you up at night, I too have been a fellow night-fretter.  I have laid awake trying mentally to control dilemmas that were uncontrollable in my own power.  Those worries caused me insomnia.  Many times I allowed troubling issues to rob me from sleep.  I am learning, however, that our sense of security is rooted in our attitude of trust in the Lord.  That solid foundation of trust in God’s ways allow an indescribable peace that doesn’t make sense to our logical sense, and grants sleep in times of anxiety.  One of my nightly rituals has become reading a Bible story to a five-year old.  How blessed am I to have this time of focusing on the truths of God’s Word before I lay down my head to sleep.  There is so much peace wrapped up in God’s Word!

Like David, we can choose to turn to the Lord during the watches of the night, and if we lie awake, to make a conscious decision to meditate on the good He has done.  We grow in trust by clinging to Him, especially in times of concern.

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