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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Leftovers


“In my Father’s house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:2-4 NIV


The aftermath of Christmas can be depressing. The beautifully decorated house is now scattered with new gifts and toys. Crumpled wrapping paper and bows fill garbage bags for the next week’s trash. Dishes from the delicious Christmas meal are stacked waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher. And if you have small children you are exhausted because you have been up before the crack of dawn!

As we begin this week, Christmas is but a memory and there are decorations to be taken down and stored. Maybe even a few gifts have to be returned. But take heart, I am reminded that something very special still remains from Christmas.

Yes, it is the Christ Child.
Now is the time for me to pick up my Bible and in the weeks ahead read about the life of the Christ Child, his youth, his ministry, his teachings, his miracles, his love, his sacrifice, his resurrection and his ascension into heaven.

In addition, today I am thinking of yet another “leftover.” It is Jesus’ promise to all humanity. In this promise he clearly tells us that he is coming again. Jesus will return to this earth a second time. This time it will not be as a helpless baby, but rather as a victorious, conquering King! For all believers this will be a wonderful, joyous experience. Jesus told us, I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, it will be a sad time of eternal separation from God. Time will be up and there will never again be another opportunity to accept God’s forgiveness.

Jesus’ first arrival was at Christmas two thousand years ago. Another wonderful “leftover,” is the Biblical account of Jesus’ life which remains with us today. God’s Word provides the written account of the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior. As we study the Gospels we see how Jesus’ lived his life. God’s Word provides an incredible example of how we are to live our life as we endeavor to pattern our life after the life of Jesus. It is Jesus’ desire that we believe on him and what he has done for us because he desires that we live with him forever.

When Jesus returned to heaven he promised to send the Holy Spirit to live inside all believers, and he did. The Holy Spirit is a helper and a comforter to all those who believe. It is and always has been Jesus’ desire that every person who ever lived would make it safely back to God. Some people will accept him and others will reject him. God’s Word has been given to help people who do not know him find him. Jesus also left believers with hope. Before Jesus returned to heaven he left us with today’s promise. Jesus is coming back for all who have put their faith and trust in him, and he will be taking us to a place that he is now in heaven preparing for us. God’s Word and hope are two precious “leftovers” from both Christmas and Easter to be treasured!

Questions:

What part of Christmas do you love the most?

Which “leftover” from Christmas do you treasure the most?

Prayer:

Dear Jesus,

I am excited to know that you are in heaven preparing a place for me. I look forward to your return and experiencing all that you have prepared for me. I thank you for the wonder of the Christmas season but I thank you for the incredible “leftovers” that I can now treasure until you return. I love your Word, your Holy Spirit that lives within me, and your precious promise to come a second time as my King! I celebrate your first coming and I anticipate with joy your second coming.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Mouse in the Stable


“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

Have you ever wanted to be “a mouse in the corner,” so you could know what was going on in a place where you were not privileged to be? I have experienced that many times with my children!

I think that when I get to heaven, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is someone who I would enjoy sharing a cup of tea with. As a mother, I have many questions I would love to ask her. I would love to know her heart, especially on the evening of the birth to her child, Jesus, God’s Son. I would also like to ask her questions about how she felt during the days that led up to the birth of Jesus and then how she felt in the hours and days, and years that followed his birth. What was Jesus like as a toddler, a young child, a teenager, a young adult, a man?

For me the births of my two children were amazing events! I could not wait to share each child with my family and friends. I wonder if Mary felt the same way? There is no mention in the Bible that family members came to see Jesus in the early hours following his birth. Did she long for her mother and father to meet this child?

I wonder how much Mary comprehended as she, a virgin, was experiencing the reality of giving birth not only to a baby but to the Son of God. How very mysterious and unbelievable was this event to Mary and yet it happened. I would like to ask Mary how she felt looking into her newborn’s eyes. Did she see anything special? And as she looked over at this incredible man Joseph, what was she feeling? How could he be so loving, so caring, so forgiving? And what about that star, how bright was it? What about the shepherds and their story about the angels? How humbled did she feel that God had chosen her, a simple young woman, whose only offering was that she was available and willing to be used by God? Then my questions would turn and I would get down to the real women stuff, how bad did that stable smell and how hard and long was your labor? Ah yes, one more questions how completely did you fall in love with your new little bundle of blue?

I know I felt a bit of apprehension taking home Amy, our first child. She was very small 6 lb. 1 oz. She was so beautiful and her Dad and I wanted to give her the world on a silver platter. Yet, I wasn’t sure I was prepared for all that was going to be required of me that evening, not to mention raising her to adulthood. As her mother, I was responsible for so much regarding her immediate safety and care. But Mary – Wow! She not only had to care for her child but she was also caring for God’s Son! I wonder how she felt about that awesome task?

This Christmas week I do have so many questions for Mary.
Yes, I would have loved to have been “a mouse in the stable” the night God put on skin and was birthed into our sin centered world. I am amazed that our Savior Jesus Christ left the riches, the splendor and the glory of heaven and willingly became poor so that you and I might be rich!

Questions:

What would you like to ask Mary?

What is it that amazes you the most about the events of Jesus’ birth?

Have you accepted Jesus Christ, God’s special gift to you?

Have you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins so that you might have eternal life in heaven with him forever?

If you have not done so, why don’t you do so now?


Right now, at this beautiful Christmas season, would be a perfect time to pray a simple prayer and ask God for his forgiveness that he has provided through His Son Jesus Christ.

Prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you that you are a God who provided a second chance for humanity to be right with you. Mankind’s sin had to be atoned for and you, God, figured out and provided a way for that to happen. What an utterly unique and amazing plan! In phase one of your amazing plan you sent your only son, Jesus Christ, to be born to a virgin. It was your plan that your Son would enter our world as a helpless baby. God I am astonished that you literally put on skin and took on the form of humanity! Your Son grew to become a child and then a man. It was your perfect plan from the beginning that in just thirty-three short years, Jesus would be crucified on a cross as a sin sacrifice for humanity. Jesus the Savior, the Messiah, would become the sacrificial lamb. Even though it was man that sinned, you God personally paid the price for that sin. It was the sin of man that had to be atoned for. Thank you God for Christmas, because Christmas was that holy night that you began to work your flawless plan for my forgiveness. I now confess my sin to you and ask you to forgive my sin and to come into my life.

In you precious Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peace On Earth Good Will Toward Men


“And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,
and saying, Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2:13-14 KJV

More often than not the Christmas season can be hectic. If we take time to be alone with God and focus on the glory of Christmas, we will indeed feel his inner peace. On the other hand, if our activities send us in too many scattered directions we will end up feeling anything but peaceful.

God’s message to my heart today is Paula, be careful and do not let your holiday preparations steal your outward peace. Make time to reflect on my glory, because in doing so you will also experience my inner peace. Take time to focus on my gift, which is intended for all people. Hear the Christmas message, “Peace on earth and good will toward men.”

Today I am trying to imagine that first glorious Christmas evening when the angel brought the message of the Messiah’s birth. After the angel had proclaimed God’s announcement, the heavenly hosts joined the angel and God’s glory was unleashed across the midnight sky. The privileged shepherds witnessed this magnificent display of praise and worship! What an amazing sight that must have been. God’s blazing glory all around!

The message was clear. The Savior of the world had been born and he would be the bridge between God and man. This baby was the promised One. He was the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. This baby would be the one who would restore us to God and make possible a personal relationship between God and man. Even from that very first Christmas night the heavens declared that peace and good will was an opportunity for all mankind and this opportunity was coming straight from the throne of God.

I doubt that these simple men had a full understanding of everything the angel had said. When their fear had passed and their heartbeats had slowed down, I can just see them standing around rubbing their eyes, looking at each other, scratching their heads, and stroking their beards. Yet very quickly they said to each other, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” Luke 2:15b KJV and they hurried away seeking the Christ child.

Oh my, if only eyewitness news could have been there to report God’s story that glorious night! But instead God chose to come to the simple shepherds who heard, saw and believed. These men left their work and immediately went to the city of David seeking their Savior, a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Their first look at this child must have been one of both wonder and amazement. Right there before their eyes, was a poor, small helpless baby, lying in a manger. Could it possibly be that the Messiah was welcomed into this world only by his parents, the common shepherds who knelt before him, and a few animals? Surely, God would not choose this stable surrounded by conditions that were way beyond all human reason, to be the birthplace of the Messiah. Yet there before their eyes was this precious baby, fresh from heaven, the Son of God, who was born of a virgin, the prophesied Messianic King!

I have tried to wrap my mind around the completeness of God’s gift to our world. In the book of Leviticus, five different sacrifices are described. The meaning of these five sacrifices has provided me with a new understanding as to the magnitude of God’s loving Christmas gift.

The Sin Offering and The Guilt Offering were mandatory for atonement of sin. Jesus became that sacrifice when he took our place on the cross.

The Burnt Offering and The Grain Offering were offerings of voluntary commitment and worship. Jesus voluntarily laid down his life. His obedience to His Father was the highest form of worship that any Son could give his Father.

The Fellowship Offering was for communion between the Lord, the priest and the worshiper. Jesus was the bridge between God and man for fellowship, and communion.

Only God…only God, could provide such a complete sacrificial package! God sent his son Jesus Christ, who was all of those offerings wrapped up in one significant offering. Jesus came from the security and glory of heaven into this world to be the sacrificial offering for sin, and the offering that would provide fellowship between God and man. Jesus then chose to make the offering complete when he voluntarily laid down his life as an act of worship and commitment to his Father.

On that historical night, God sent a message straight from his heart to this sinful world. The message came through the angels! … “a multitude of the heavenly host who were praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” That was the night that God said to mankind, “I want you back, so I am sending a good will offering of forgiveness, inner peace, and restored fellowship between God and man.”

Through accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we have forgiveness and inner peace. God’s offering to mankind carries with it a message of love and good will for everyone who will believe!

On that very special night God’s birth announcement of his One and only Son was announced across the midnight sky. God knew from the beginning that Jesus would be the sacrifice for mankind’s sin. But in addition, on the night of the birth of the Christ child, God wanted mankind to recognize that Jesus would be the offering that would make possible a personal relationship with him. Personal access, fellowship and communion with the Father would soon be restored and the yearly sacrifices would soon be abolished.

I am impressed that the shepherds went with haste! They didn’t call a meeting, they didn’t take a vote. Nor did they call in a team of expert shepherds to determine if this was a good opportunity. No, very simply by their immediate actions, we see that the shepherds simply believed. As believers we know that it is God’s good will that has provided mankind with a second chance. That holy night the shepherds witnessed the angels doing what they do best, honoring God through a splendid display of praise and worship, saying “Glory to God in the highest!” We too should recognize this blessed event as an occasion for our magnificent praise and worship.

The Christmas season is an excellent opportunity for us to exhibit a spirit of peace and good will. As I shop I know there will be times that I will need to exhibit a spirit of peace rather than irritation. As I drive in the holiday traffic I will have opportunities to show courtesy to others rather than voicing my impatience. When I invite people into my home I need to offer them not only Christmas cookies but also the spirit of peace and good will. I need to look for opportunities to help those less fortunate by sharing God’s love through the use of my time and my resources. I also pray that God will place unbelievers in my path this Christmas season, so that I will have opportunities to share the message of that spectacular night. The very night that God came to earth in the human form as a poor and helpless baby, who was the complete sacrificial package found lying in a manger!

Peace on earth for me is found deep within my heart. Good will toward men is demonstrated to others by showing compassion, mercy, love, and patience to others.

Christmas is a perfect time to make a special effort to show good will toward all those we come in contact with. Pray for opportunities to share God’s message of good will with those who do not know him as their personal Savior. Share the message that Jesus Christ became our Sin and Guilt Offerings. Tell them that Jesus Christ also became our Fellowship Offering, the offering that makes it possible for us to have a personal relationship with God both now and forever.

As Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee, the will of his Father was always before him and obedience to his Father was of utmost importance. Jesus demonstrated his love for his Father by voluntarily dying on the cross. This act was worship given to his Father in its highest form. Never before had their ever been a voluntary Burnt Offering or a Grain Offering of such magnitude!

Through the sacrifice of his Son, God demanded both the atonement for our sin and the restoration of fellowship and communion that had been lost in the Garden. Without a doubt those were divine acts of God’s love and grace. But could it be that it was not the Divinity of Jesus, but rather the humanity of Jesus that voluntarily responded to his Father in love and obedience? Could it be that it was that act of submission that made the sacrifice fragrantly sweet and complete?

I hope that you will join me in savoring this Christmas take away. Embrace God’s love and experience his inner peace even in a world that is restless and stressful, greedy and self serving, and arrogant and rude. Remember that Christians are God’s vessels that he uses to pour out his peace on the earth in a world that is anything but peaceful. We are also called to speak God’s message of good will and exhibit that good will to others.

God’s amazing love came down to us on that first Christmas night and when it did the heavens burst forth in the most elaborate unimaginable display of God’s love and grace. It was a spectacular birth announcement that would change our lives for all eternity.

Questions:

Do you often find yourself zipping through Christmas with only a handful of thoughts about Jesus?

What do you think that peace on earth really means?

This Christmas season what will you do and what will you leave undone in order to allow yourself time to focus on Jesus and feel his inner peace?

As you prepare for Christmas will you choose to demonstrate good will to those you come in contact with by being compassionate, merciful, loving, patient, and kind?


Prayer:

Dear God,

Please help me this Christmas season to respond as a simple shepherdess, who has seen your glory.

As I scurry about making holiday plans, remind me that by my actions and words I have a wonderful opportunity to relate your glorious Christmas message of, “Peace on earth – goodwill to men on whom your favor rests.”

God forgive me when I rush ahead of you. Help me to be aware of all those I meet and help me not to miss a single opportunity to exhibit good will to all those I come in contact with. I pray that this Christmas season my life will reflect an inner peace that can only come from you.

Give me your grace so that I will want to choose to be compassionate, merciful, loving, patient and kind during this holiday season. Help me to remember that I have seen the glory of your salvation and I must pass it on. God forgive me when I fail to show good will to others. Help me to remember that my negative remarks and actions do not bring glory to you and that an irritable spirit cancels out your peace in my life.

God, what an amazing plan, all of the Old Testament offerings wrapped up in one complete package, and his name is Jesus.

God I am astounded that you, the powerful God of the universe, actually put on skin and came to live among us. Today, I offer up to you my praise and worship for all you have provided for me through the birth of your Son. If only my praise and worship was as magnificent as the praise and worship that came from the lips of the heavenly host that first Christmas night.

So Father, I humbly say thank you.

For yours is the power and the glory forever, Amen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Baking Christmas Cookies

Our Abigail

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;”

Psalm 34:8 NIV


Christmas appeals to our senses in every way. Visually, the lights and decorations are beautiful. The sweet smell of cinnamon and sugar make us head for the kitchen. The beautiful music that we hear thrills us and we want to sing along. The priceless hugs that we receive from friends and family are the very touches of love. Yummy cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows and peppermint sticks delight our taste buds.












Papa and Abigail
My mother-in-law had a wonderful sugar cookie recipe that my husband thinks is second to none. Every year he pulls out the rolling pin, the colored sugar, and the bell, star and candy cane shaped cookies cutters and begins to bake sugar cookies. When we were first married he baked them for himself. I think he did this because I could never roll them thin enough! In later years he baked them for our children and now he bakes them for our grandchildren. When the cookie baking begins he always has lots of little hands helping him and even those who don’t help are most eager to become “cookie samplers.”









Grandmother’s sugar cookies have become a part of our Christmas tradition. It brings back wonderful memories of a loving mother and grandmother and adds sweetness to our holiday season. Eating sweet Christmas morsels also serve as a reminder that the birth of Jesus is one of the sweetest stories ever told. It is also a good time to pass on to our family the challenge to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”





Questions:

Do you have special Christmas traditions?

Do those traditions reflect Jesus?

Can you find creative ways to add to your Christmas traditions spiritual truth that will enhance and add significance to those traditions?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus,


Show me some creative ways that I can bring you into the special Christmas traditions of our family. I have tasted your goodness and I am grateful. With each Christmas cookie that I munch, help me to remember the sweetness of your love. Help me to savor the message of your birth through out this Christmas season.


In Your name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Off and Running


“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air."
I Corinthians 9:26 NIV

Right after the last piece of pumpkin pie has been devoured and the last turkey sandwich has been gobbled down my brain switches immediately to Christmas preparation. This morning as I stroll through my garden I find myself savoring the last of the beautiful hot pink Camellias. The brisk fall air encourages me to wrap my scarf around my neck a little tighter. This morning the message is clear, it is time to toss the pumpkins and begin to prepare for Christmas. As I began to think about Christmas I also began to struggle with the commercialism that surrounds Christmas and excludes Jesus. In response to my thoughts I bow my head and ask God to show me how he would have me prepare for Christmas.

So as I begin to shop, decorate, bake, entertain, wrap gifts, and mail cards, I will try to simplify my efforts as I prepare for Christmas. I will also look for ways that I might center more on Jesus. It is indeed a shame that this must be a conscious effort, but the noise of our society bombards us with a million alternatives. One of my main resolutions this year is to participate selectively in the many activities, yet find time to be alone with the One whose birthday we celebrate and to spend time meditating upon the events surrounding the birth of Christ. I have found in the past that it is possible to form wonderful Christmas traditions that include Jesus.

All of us are attacked on every front by the commercialism of Christmas. However, it is important to step back and take a deep breath and evaluate all that is on our plate. What will we keep and what must go. Below are some questions that have helped me to pick and choose the way I will spend my time and energy as I prepare for Christmas. I know that I will be running, but I hope that as I run my Christmas marathon it will be with meaning and purpose. Here are some questions to consider.

What can I do to make my Christmas “Quiet Time” special?

How much time am I willing to give to each Christmas project?

How can I enhance my Christmas projects with spiritual significance?

Does this activity bring me joy or frustration?

How can I eliminate the frustration and replace it with joy?


I love Christmas! I look forward to all of the festivities leading up to December 25th. It is an exceptional opportunity for family togetherness and sharing. I am always amazed at the story of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the appearance of the angels, the humble shepherds, and the simple manner in which God chose for his son to enter our world. I marvel at the forgiveness, obedience and devotion of Joseph, the availability of Mary and her accepting heart. The focused determination of the wise men was amazing as they searched for the star. Last but never least, what about the music of Christmas? Oh… how I love the music of Christmas! I pray that this year you will join me as we embrace the Christmas season with spiritual thoughtfulness and eternal purpose.


Questions:

Today’s questions are found in the body of this week’s devotional. Please take time to consider each question prayerfully. God is able to inspire and direct your steps as you prepare for the birthday of his Son.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus,

Christmas is a beautiful time of year. I joyfully look forward to celebrating your birth. Help me Jesus to be very intentional this year, as I endeavor not to overload on meaningless activities and push you aside. May I put you first and seek to know your heart and mind for me as I plan a special Christmas that will bring joy to my family and glory to you.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Trees of the Field Clap Their Hands


“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Isaiah 55:12 NIV

Although autumn is beautiful, it sill is not my favorite season because the crispness of autumn signals the coming winter. All of my flower gardens suffer the sad effects of the cool days of autumn. The annuals die and my perennials are in need of being cut back as they prepare for their winter nap.

Yet there are moments in autumn that our amazing God dips his creative hand down to earth and swishes his glorious paint brush over the trees creating a thrilling scene! It is especially beautiful against the back drop of a deep blue cloudless autumn sky. This exquisite picture is indeed a feast for my eyes!

I believe this may have been what the prophet Isaiah was describing when he wrote that the mountains and hills burst into song and the trees of the field clap their hands. The display of the rich red, orange, gold and yellow leaves of autumn are indeed reason for the trees to clap their hands in praise to their creator. It is this autumn beauty that ushers in the harvest and Thanksgiving Day.

Every Thanksgiving, right before prayer, our family sits before our Thanksgiving feast and each of us pick up the two kernels of Indian corn that has been placed at our plate. As a small basket makes its way around the table every adult and child drop into the basket their corn kernels, and one at a time each person express two special blessings that they want to thank God for.

This year my thanks will not be for the many temporal blessing of provision that God has given to me, but rather for two other amazing gifts. The first gift is the joy that I have in my soul even during days of trouble and uncertainty. The second gift that I am grateful for is God’s sweet gift of his peace.

This Thanksgiving I want to join in with the trees of the field and clap my hands in praise, worship, and thanksgiving for two of the most satisfying gifts that God could ever bestow upon me, his joy and his peace.

Questions:


Can you think of a special time when you witnessed the beauty of nature praising God?

What two things are you the most thankful for this Thanksgiving?



Prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for such a beautiful visual of how the trees of the field clap their hands in praise and worship. God, create in me a pure heart that also praises you in delight for all of your amazing works. Today I bow before you with a thankful heart for the many blessings that you have brought into my life. Thank you also for your joy and peace.

In Your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spending Time With God Each Day...Is It Opitional?


“He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
he leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul:
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23:2-3 NIV


Is spending time with God each day optional? Of course it’s optional! God doesn’t force himself on anyone. Is it wise to start your day without greeting God and saying hello? Well no, not really. I have personally found that when I hurry through my day without connecting with God in a significant way I seem to loose my focus. I become more focused on myself, my work, and my desires. My emotions are open for attack from others and my feelings seem to get hurt easier. As the day moves along I find myself becoming more stressed and more dissatisfied with life and others, and on a scale of one to ten I give myself about a nine and a half in the irritability and crabbiness categories! Now mind you I said that’s me, not you! Satan is also very aware when I have become distracted and have lost sight of my spiritual focus. He desires that my thoughts would be self centered instead of Christ centered.

For me meeting with God early in the morning is best. You see I’m old and the memory is going! I’ve got to hit it while my mind is clear and I can still think. When my children were small this was not a good option for me. During that time of my life it was quick prayers on the fly with a more intentional time with God during their naps, if I even tried at all! If you are a male or female in the work arena you may need to find another solution. Perhaps going into work a bit earlier, closing your office door, sitting alone in your cubical, or sitting in your car a bit longer before rushing into work. You might try listening to praise music on the way to work and shooting up a prayer to God as you worship him through music. There are many devotional books that take just a very few minutes to read or a flip calendar for your desk that has a scripture with an inspiring thought. Or you might try eating your lunch in a quiet place while you have a time alone with God. Of course, there is evening. You may find that evening may be your best option for plugging in to God, but in reality the day is already over and you have missed out on the jump start of God’s strength that you could have drawn from all during your day.

Guilt is the last thing that any of us need but encouragement to raise the bar in our life to include God is beneficial. One of the biggest misconceptions about spending time alone with God daily is that it must be done at a particular time and place. The amount of time is up to you and if you miss a day that okay. Just keep trying. God knows your heart. I am sure that God would rather have a few moments of your pure worship opposed to you being a self-righteous person setting down for an hour out of duty. Our time alone with God is a personal goal to be aspired to and improved upon as we live out our life here on earth.

The longer I live the more I treasure my time alone with God. There is something to be said about being able to shut out the noise of life and to separate myself from other people and go one-on-One with God. It is in this the time that I am carried to a higher level of intimacy with God. It is a time of comfort and encouragement. It is a time that I can love on God and he can love on me. It is a time when I can learn more about God and his incredible ways.

I have many tools at my disposal to help me grow in the Lord and all are good and have a purpose. However, I have found that at some point I still have to turn off the minister on the radio, put away my Bible study lesson, stop reading that highly recommend Christian book, turn off my praise and worship music, and though it pains me to say this, turn off the computer and skip reading blogs. I have found that it is so important for me to make an effort to shut out the Christian world and spend one-on-One time alone with God simply reading the Bible and praying without distraction. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God wants all of us to lie down in a green pasture, and sit beside the still waters while we allow him to restore our soul. God wants to be the One to lead us and redirect our path. He wants to restore our focus to his righteousness because he loves you and me and wants us to be the best we can be. Yes, spending quality time alone with God is optional. But in order for us to have the spiritual growth that we desire – it is necessary!



Questions:

Do you have regular time alone with God?

Do you desire to have a regular time alone with God but keep allowing your busy schedule to crowd time alone with God out of your life?

Do you agree that for personal spiritual growth spending time alone with God each day it is not an option but rather a necessary activity?

Can you find a personal solution to finding time to be alone with only God?


Prayer:

Dear God,

I do see that choosing to not to spend time with you is indeed an option, but choosing to avoid personal time with you is not a good idea. Please replace the guilt I feel regarding this choice with a deep desire to spend time alone time with you. Please show me how I can fit this one-on-One time with you into my already busy day. God I admit that sometimes I am better at this than other times. Show me how to sit aside good things for greater things. More than anything else, I pray that you would fan the flame of desire in my spirit so that I will want to be with you, not out of obligation, but rather out of love. God I want my days to run smoother, I want to live less stressed, I desire to be less irritable, I want my life to reflect you as I go through my day. God, I need the power in my life that only comes from spending time alone with you.

In Your Son’s Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cared for by Jesus



“…Come and have breakfast.” John 21:12a NIV


When was the last time when someone cooked breakfast for you? If you are like me, I’m the cook! Young mothers are so busy that often they don’t even get to eat breakfast. I would imagine that many of you are rushing out of the house and into your car with only a food bar in your hand. Some of you will simply skip breakfast because you overslept and didn’t have time to eat.

It was again during my time alone with Jesus in the garden that he stirred my heart with the truth of yet another scripture. It was the story found in John 21:1-14. This is an amazing story. Jesus had been crucified and laid in the tomb. Jesus had risen and was making some unexpected appearances here and there to the disciples. The fact was the disciples were out of work and it seemed that their boss had closed up shop. What else was there to do but go back to fishing?

It was night time and several of the disciples (including Peter) went out to fish. They fished all night and in the early morning someone from the shore called out, “Friends haven’t you any fish?” At this point they did not recognize Jesus and probably didn’t appreciate the fact that this man was rubbing it in that they didn’t have any fish! Jesus then said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” This story further reveals that when they did, the catch was so great (153 fish to be exact) that they were unable to haul the net into the boat. At this point John recognized Jesus. Then Peter (the one who had denied Jesus three times,) jumped into the water and ran to meet Jesus! Peter was in such a hurry that he left the others to drag in the fish. How appropriate! Some work and some socialize.

Now here is the good part. When they all got to shore they realized that Jesus had laid a fire of burning coals and there was some fish on it and some bread. Jesus simply said, “Come and have breakfast.” Jesus took the bread and fish and gave it to his friends.

I am stirred deep within my heart and moved to unbelievable tears of joy when I realize that Jesus would cook breakfast for me. Just as Jesus provided for the physical needs of his loved ones, he has and will continue to provide for my physical needs a well. The second amazing thing is that no matter how many times I may fail Jesus, he never fails me. I am so glad that he allowed Peter to eat because I know that even in my failures Jesus loves me so much he would never deny me an opportunity to eat with him. He is the bread of life and there is plenty to go around.


Questions:

Do you remember a time when Jesus was this personal with you?

How do you feel about the fact that even in your failure Jesus is always
faithful to you?

Prayer:

Dear Jesus,

Today I am so thankful for your amazing love to me. I am blessed to know that even when I am not faithful, you are. Thank you Lord that you love me in such a personal way that you would cook breakfast for me! That kind of personal care and attention to my physical need is mind boggling! I pray that this knowledge will enable me to trust you more and that it will challenge me to seek you and spend more time alone with you.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Visiting the Secret Garden


“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8 – 9a NIV

Very early this morning I wrapped myself in an afghan, poured a cup of coffee and walked out on my back porch. The sky was still dark. I sat silently listening to God’s creation. Insects chirped their symphony of praise while the birds still slept in their nests. As I entered my heart’s secret garden I attempted to clear my mind of all clutter. I waited silently for Jesus to speak. Even though I could not see him or feel him, my faith told me he was there. I was comforted to be in his presence.

After a bit of time had passed my Master Gardner, Jesus Christ began to teach me. As he often did in scripture, he began with a question. “Paula, what do you think needs to come out of your garden?” My reply was, “nothing Lord; I love it just as it is!”

Jesus began his silent teaching through whispering A thought into my mind. He spoke only one word “resentment.” He said you have made progress in forgiveness and in acceptance, yet you still need to deal with this deep rooted weed of resentment.

I determined this morning that even though I may be able to forgive and accept the ones who offend me, I still resent them critiquing me and my values. I feel hurt when I am ignored and I resent that I am not valued by the offender. Rejection is hard to accept.

It was in the garden that Jesus began in love to teach me. Jesus spoke to me in kindness and he assured me that if I would allow him to uproot the resentment weed I would become a more effective Christian. Down deep in my heart I so want to be a person of godly influence. I realized that in that moment I was not strong enough to remove that deeply rooted weed of resentment that was entangled in my heart. A weed of this size would require a powerful tiller. The divine tool I needed here was the Holy Spirit. So on that day I gave God permission to excavate the deep root of resentment. He assured me, as he always does, that I would not miss this weed of resentment because he is all that I need and he is more than enough!

Today I am reminded that Jesus was ignored. Still today, Jesus is not valued by those he loves. He faces rejection everyday. Yet he continues to love humanity. Jesus stayed focused on the Father and the reason that he came to this earth. He had no time for pity parties. He moved on doing the work God had given him to do. Jesus saw the bigger picture and he knew that it was for the eternal good of all humanity to walk away and not waste one a minute on resentment. For my eternal good I want to choose to say good-bye to resentment. Resentment does not belong in the garden of my heart and when it tries to return I will definitely need to call for divine help.

Questions:

Have you ever waited and listened for God to whisper his truth to your heart?

What did he say?

Is the noise of the day so loud that you cannot hear God speak?

Will you today make a place where you can be alone with God and listen to his voice?


Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

I admit my life is so busy that I am greatly challenged by finding not only time but “quiet” time to be alone with you. Help me to find a creative way to carve out that special time to meet you in the garden. Lord, I desire to meet you in the secret garden of my heart.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Speaking to God as Friend to Friend


“A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24 NIV

I have to admit that in the past I have had butterflies in my stomach when the thought of trying to develop an intimate personal relationship with Jesus would be discussed. Some of us avoid intimacy and others are not good conversationalists. Some of us do all the talking and never listen when others speak.

I have found that the very best teachers and ministers are those who are real. I also love a minister or teacher who has the ability to speak spiritual truth and show you what it looks like in the real world. I for one need examples and word pictures. I need to know how to apply spiritual truth at the grocery store, the shopping mall, at my dinner table, in the car, on the job, and at family functions. I need to know what the truth is and what it is not.

You may find the idea of meeting God in your heart’s garden to be both beautiful and comforting, or this scenario may make you feel like you are stepping into a fantasy world and greatly uncomfortable. At first I was not comfortable spending time with Jesus. My life was complicated, cluttered, and busy. It was stressful for me to sit down when there is so much to be done. I admit that many times in my life it has been hard for me to focus for more than five minutes on spiritual things and praying for longer than two minutes was out of the question. Unless I was in trouble, I simply did not have that much to say to God. God seemed to be far away and aloof.

The truth is that God welcomes us into his presence. He knows we are frail and unaccustomed to being in his presence. God is patient, kind and loving as we attempt to learn how to move into a deeper relationship with him. I continue to be amazed that the God of the universe desires that I know him intimately. He wants all of us to speak to him everyday and all through the day as friend to friend.

So when I became intentional about developing a daily friendship with Jesus I tried to think of him as my very best friend. I asked myself, how do I treat my very best friend? I then began to implement those same acts of friendship with Jesus. I now speak to him as a friend who cares about all aspects of my life and understands my concerns. Figuratively speaking, we chat over morning coffee and we share secrets over a cup of afternoon tea. As I talk to Jesus I express my frustrations and I admit my fears. I tell him of my challenges. I tell him of my joys. I confess my sin and shortcomings. I tell him often what his friendship means to me. I thank him for being in my life and for all that he has done for me. I ask him for his advice, help, and guidance. I then practice listening to the voice of my friend. Shhhhh…I must be still…be quiet… what does Jesus have to say to me?

What scripture will he remind me of today and what thoughts will he place in my mind. This kind of simplicity and honesty is prayer in its purest form. My friendship with Jesus begins early in the day in a private place set apart for just my friend and me, and it continues throughout my busy day. It even continues as I sleep. Jesus is becoming my first thought in the morning when I get up. Together we begin our day, ready to do it all over again. Jesus is my dearest friend!

Questions:

Who is your best friend?

How do you treat that friend?

How would you feel if you no longer had that friendship?

Are you in a relationship with Jesus?

Are you willing to try to treat Jesus like your best friend?

Prayer:

Dear Lord,

Help me to desire a special friendship with you. Help me to start simple and build on that simple beginning. Give me the faith to believe that you care about me and want to be in a personal relationship with me. Lord, I pray that our friendship will continue to grow stronger every day. Thank you for being a friend that sticks closer than a sibling, a parent, or a spouse.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Acquaintance vs. Friend

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.”
Psalm 143:8 NIV


During my life I have had many opportunities to meet new people. Those opportunities have come when I have started a new job, and moved into a new neighborhood, and changed churches. The greatest opportunities to meet new people have come when we have relocated to a new state.

I must admit that I make intimate friends cautiously. Before I spill my guts to a new neighbor I want to be sure I can trust them. Before I invite someone to dinner I want to be sure they are not going to take home the silver. Frankly, in a close friendship I am looking for someone to share my hopes, my dreams, my fears, and my concerns. I am looking for a confidant. I have come to realize that my very best friends have also been those individuals with whom I also share my faith.

Acquaintances aren’t so bad either. There is always the chance that they will become a really good friend if given half a chance. Acquaintances are people that you can know and share casual details of life with and enjoy fellowship. In meeting people I have learned to not only look for those God has sent my way for me to help and encourage, but also to look for those has God sent to help and encourage me. I don’t want to miss knowing that special person that God has placed in my life weather they are a one time encounter, an acquaintance, or an intimate friend.

Today I am remembering that when I invited Jesus Christ to come into my life there was much I did not know about him. We really started out together as acquaintances. Yes, he had called me first and invited me to be his friend and I had accepted, but now I was faced with, where was this friendship going? I must admit that early in my acquaintance with Jesus I moved with great caution. How did I know I could trust him? Did he really care about the little details of my life? Why did he want me to obey him and why should I? What was this “serve me” business all about? Over and over again I wondered how could I believe in what I could not see and how could I trust a guy that I couldn’t see to handle my life? Satan loved to dazzle me with all of those questions!

I hardly know how or when it happened. It was gradual. It was exciting. It has become precious! Jesus moved from an acquaintance in my life to a precious friend. For me trust seemed to be the real issue. Most of the trust issues came to rest as I spent time alone with him in the garden of my heart learning about him and his love for me. If you have not experienced your Savior as a friend, I encourage you to move forward in trust.

Every morning when I wake up I am anxious to sit with my friend, Jesus Christ. I can’t wait to hear the word he has for me that day that will tell me of his unfailing love. Jesus is a friend that I can trust. He shows me the way I should go and he lifts up my soul


Questions:

Has Jesus become your friend or is he just an acquaintance?

Do you trust God with your life?

Do you trust him for your future both now and in eternity?

Do you trust him with those you love?

If you can’t trust him, why do you think that is? Is it fear? Is it control? Is it a lack of understanding as to who God really is, or is it your surface relationship with God that is affecting your trust?

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I am this day in need of your friendship. I desire to know who you are and understand your love, your power, your grace. Help me to know that you do know my name and that you are waiting for me to move closer to you. Show me how I can learn to trust you more to handle every detail of my life.

In your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Blue Chair


Special Note: Today’s blog is a little longer than usual but I think that you will enjoy it because it describes how I learned to form the habit of a regular “Quite Time” with the Lord. The Blue Chair is another setting whereby I enter “The Garden of My Heart.”


“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8 NIV


As a child, I was raised knowing that it was important to read the Bible everyday. As a teenager I thought that reading the Bible was boring, when I became a young adult I was too busy, and after becoming a mother it was impossible! Nevertheless, all of these empty excuses heaped tons of guilt onto my shoulders. As a young mother I asked, “God, how can I possibly have time to read the Bible and spend time alone with you everyday?” This was a question that repeatedly haunted me, and then it happened, the blue chair!

The blue chair was a comfortable, cozy chair. It was one of the two pieces of furniture that my husband and I purchased when we first set up housekeeping. The blue chair sat in a corner of our family room. It fit my body perfectly. I loved it! One day, I got the bright idea to make a spot in our home where I could have a “Quiet Time.” My eyes went straight to my favorite blue chair. Next to the chair I placed a small table to hold a lamp, my Bible, and still leave enough room to set my favorite morning beverage, coffee. During the winter months I added a comfy afghan to the back of the blue chair. The picture was perfect; this was my little corner of the world. At last, a place to read my Bible and pray.

I would love to say that this was a perfect plan that was flawless and worked immediately, but that’s just not the way it played out. When I first purposed in my heart to set up an area in our home for a “Quite Time” retreat, I would often fail to sit down in the blue chair. Everyday I would look at the blue chair, and I knew in my heart that the blue chair was intended to offer me a place to read my Bible and to pray. Sadly, I would often pass by the blue chair and promise myself that I would get in the chair as soon as I finished whatever important chore I was currently doing. Some days I would make it to the blue chair and other days it would seem less of a priority.

No matter what the desire of my heart was, the busyness of life had a way of pulling me away from the very thing that in my heart I really wanted to do. There were still many days that I missed my appointment with God in the blue chair. The blue chair also became a very present and annoying reminder to me that I should have been in a place where I was not!

Over the years, I became more intentional and I frequently made time for sitting in the blue chair. I actually looked forward to this personal encounter with God and I couldn’t wait to wake up, pour myself a cup of coffee, and sit in the blue chair. On the days that I absolutely couldn’t make it I began to feel cheated. When I climbed into bed at night, I regretted that I had missed a very special time that day with my Lord.

As my time in the blue chair increased, so did my need for a more organized space. I brought in a small basket and placed it on the floor next to the blue chair to hold my Bible, a journal, a pen and a devotional book. I then progressed to a larger sized basket, to hold even more study materials. Over the years the need for more space continued to grow as I accumulated even more of the same! Before I knew it, I had to move a small bookcase into the family room and sit it next to the blue chair for the exclusive purpose of holding my ever growing collection of reading and study materials.

As time passed, my appointment with God in the blue chair became a regular habit. I was finding that the time I spent alone with God was indeed sweet and enjoyable. It was also comforting, and encouraging. The blue chair became the regular place where I found peace and strength. It was a place where I could pour out my pain and frustration, a place to leave my guilt, a place to praise and worship God, and a place to say thank you to God for all of the many blessings in my life.

One of the bonuses of the blue chair was that my children expected me to be in the blue chair. When they came downstairs before leaving for school, they would often stop by and ask me to pray about their needs for that day. If I wasn’t in the blue chair, they wanted to know why not.

My children no longer live at home. I am now in yet another stage of life. In the past few years I have been known to let things in the house go undone, because I enjoy my time in the blue chair so much. What started as a twenty minute “Quiet Time,” many years ago has at times grown out of control! I now find that I would rather be having my “Quiet Time” instead doing laundry, cooking, or housework. Imagine that!

Over the years, I became acutely aware that I didn’t spend time in the blue chair because I was a person who had finally gotten it all together. No, it really was and still is quite the opposite! The truth is I need to be in the blue chair because that is where I meet with God; I have found God to be my source of strength, my teacher, and my friend. My “Quiet Time” is where I can redirect my focus to God and not my circumstances. The fact of the matter is, my blue chair will need to go to the garbage dump long before I will ever out grow my personal need to be sitting in it each and every day of my life.

At times the enemy tries to lure me away from the blue chair, and sadly to say, sometimes he does. But God is so faithful. Everyday His spirit draws me to Himself and to the blue chair. I now know deep within my soul, that it is in those few minutes of solitude each day that I am able to enter into a sweet personal relationship with my Lord. Of course, God goes with me many places through out the day, but for me it begins in the blue chair.

What God has taught me is that my “Quiet Time,” with Him is and has been an ongoing process. I had to start somewhere and for me it was the blue chair. Each season of my life has brought about many different responsibilities inside and outside of the home. I worked, then I became a stay at home mom, and then I again re-entered the work arena, and now God has provided a time of solitude that I believe is designed for my spiritual submission and refinement. I am so thankful that I followed God’s prompting in my heart many years ago, to set aside a time and a place to gradually form the habit of meeting with Him every day.

Spending time alone with God is a precious time. It is the best source of help, wisdom, love and encouragement that I am able to receive on any given day. The blue chair has been the icon that has daily drawn me to God. It is the place where God meets me where I am, He listens to me, He teaches me, and He pours into my heart His abundant and never ending love for me.

I now try to encourage others to find their own personal “blue chair,” whenever they can, wherever it may be, whatever it may look like. If you already have a special place for your “Quiet Time,” that is wonderful. In that case I would like to encourage you to “raise the bar” by beginning to spend a little more time with God each day. Explore new ways to study, spend more time reading his Word, and spend more time in prayer. Try memorizing some scripture; and learn what God has promised you in his word. You might even try your hand at journaling. One thing for sure, God will already be there in your special spot waiting for your arrival.

Questions:

Have you ever been able to form the habit of having a “Quiet Time” with God most every day?

If not, what is hindering you from having a “Quiet Time?”

Would you like to try again to form this habit?
What will you do to begin forming the habit?

If you already have a regular “Quiet Time” what will you do to “raise the bar” during your “Quiet Time?”

Prayer:

Dear Lord,

“Quiet Time” with you seems to always elude me. God, I have a simple desire to form this habit and I know that you understand all that I have to do in my life. Help me Lord to make a place and start simple. I pray that Satan will not defeat me in this effort because of my inconsistency. During times of inconsistency, I pray Lord that you will help me to simply start back right where I left off. May I not view my inconsistency as a failure. Help me to see that you are with me in this effort. I know that as I mature in my faith you will help me succeed. I know that there will always be opportunity for me to “raise the bar” a little higher in the time that I spend with you.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Lick and a Promise




“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;”

Psalm 84:10a NIV







The older I get the more I realize how valuable “a lick and a promise” can be when it comes to housework. In past years I have tried to have every thing in my house, garage and yard perfect, only to fail every single time! I now know that “a lick and a promise” can go a long way in keeping total disaster from overcoming my residence.


I remember standing outside my house shaking my rugs while watching other people as they sat on their porches, took walks, and rode bikes. I always went back into the house wondering how in the world they had time to enjoy life.

The real point today is that life was keeping me so busy with what I considered to be necessary that it robbed me of enjoying life. That is why I now think that flying the “lick and a promise” flag is a good idea. For me cleanliness is a must but perfection is always just out of my reach because there is always too much to be done. Many times family members undo my work faster than I can do it, I’m sure you know what I mean!

My husband and I live in a home that takes quite a bit of care and maintenance. Our home is nestled on a wooded lot and we have several porches and decks. I believe that God has given us this home and grounds to enjoy and use for his glory. I have become acutely aware that if I spend every waking moment making sure that there is no evidence that the birds have been around on the decks and porches, or that every single weed is pulled, and every leaf has been perfectly blown off the decks, then most likely I will never get around enjoying the blessing of the home that God has given us. So once again, the “lick and a promise” rule applies as I tackle the most obvious projects. By doing only a little of this and that everyday I have come to free up some free time for enjoying God, my family, my friends, the solitude of my home, my porch swing and some of the hobbies that I love.

It is also very much like that with the Lord. Making time for the Lord is important even if it’s just five minutes here and there. I used to think that if I didn’t have an hour I may as well not even attempt to spend time with the Lord. While I am an advocate of forming the habit of a daily purposeful “quiet time,” guess what? I have found that the “lick and a promise” rule is of value in my spiritual life as well. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” The loose translation of those words is that it is indeed better to spend five minutes here and there with the Lord than to wait until I have everything in perfect order or until I manage to snag a large block of time. If I am not careful, life will end and I will have spent thousands of days elsewhere!

Just like my house, if I never pick up misplaced items, clean a bathroom, load the dishwasher, mop a floor, or dust and vacuum, eventually my earthly house will be in such disarray and so filthy that it will take major work to get it back into some reasonable shape. So I am learning to read a verse or two while I have my coffee, or read a short blog when I set down at my computer. All through the day I whisper prayers giving God my concerns and worship one phrase at a time. In addition I love to turn on praise and worship music while I work or drive in my car. Better is five minutes in his courts than hours spent elsewhere. In this very simple way I am able to keep my focus on God and maintain the order of my spiritual house.


Questions:

What is it that you like to do that you seldom find time to do?

Are you overdoing some things in your life and does that pattern prevent you from enjoying other things that would bring you pleasure?

Do you think that the “lick and a promise” policy might free up some of your busy day?

Could re-thinking your activities open up a window of time for daily connecting with God?


Prayer:

Lord Jesus,

You were busy to the point of exhaustion every day of your ministry. Yet not only did you commune with your Father all through each day, in addition, you would rise early or get in a boat and sail away from the crowds and your work, to spend time alone with your Father. Lord Jesus, impress upon my mind what is necessary and what is not necessary in my life. Help me to simplify my life in any way that I can. Help me to not only find time for you but also for rest and relaxation. Help me to enjoy my family and my friends. God, you have blessed me with so much. Help me to stop and smell all of the beautiful roses that you have placed in the garden of my life.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Orchard

"If a man remains in me and I in him,

he will bear much fruit,

apart from me you can donothing.”

John 15: 5b NIV


Today I had an amazing walk in the garden. Jesus wanted me to see that he had been planting some very special trees in my garden. He said, Paula come walk with me to the orchard. At first I was a little afraid when he mentioned the orchard because I had been doing my best to avoid all of the apple trees at all cost, if you know what I mean!


But the fact was God had some pretty special fruit trees for me to look at inside the orchard. For some reason I had never really noticed the orchard. The orchard was located deep in the garden. Most of the time Jesus and I had worked together on clearing the land, tilling the soil, removing the rocks and planting flowers and shrubs. This trip was special because Jesus was about to show me what he had been doing on his own time. He had been in the garden of my heart, all alone, planting the fruit trees!


When I got there I was totally amazed! There were wonderful fruit trees all symbolic of what God was planting in my life. The individual trees had not been planted in rows but had been purposefully planted close together so when they matured they would all grow together and form one magnificent tree. Some of the fruit trees were sill seedlings. Others had blossoms, others had a small amount of fruit and other trees had more fruit. One thing for sure, each tree was more beautiful than the next. All of the blossoms smelled fragrantly sweet and the fruit that I tasted from these fruit producing trees was delicious! The juicy, succulent fruit I was enjoying was fruit that I was not accustomed to eating.


Jesus then began to tell me the names of all the fruit trees. One tree had very sweet fruit. The name of that fruit was love. Another tree had some rather comical looking fruit named joy, and yet another tree had some graceful fruit hanging from its branches that he called peace. Still there were four more trees bearing blossoms. Those blossoms would be producing the fruit of, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. I was very sad and disappointed to see two more pitifully small trees that just had a few buds. Those trees would eventually be bearing fruit of gentleness and self-control. I could see that those trees were going to take a very long time to produce fruit.


To my amazement Jesus told me that the fruit growing on these trees could only be produced through the power of his Holy Spirit in my life and apart from him there would be no fruit at all. During my walk in the orchard I determined to try harder to partner with the Holy Spirit so that my orchard would bear much fruit. I desperately wanted all of my trees to produce an abundance of fruit because I was told that all of the harvested fruit would last forever and would bring glory to the one who planted the trees in the orchard. Lastly, Jesus reminded me that he has commanded me to bear fruit. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” John 15:16 NIV


Questions:

Which of your fruit trees do you think will have the most difficulty producing fruit?


Have you tried producing the fruit of the spirit using only your effort?


Have you experienced frustrating results?


Who produces the fruit of the Spirit?

Prayer:


Dear Heavenly Father,


Lord I pray that my life will produce the fruit of your Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I pray that I will rely on the power of your Holy Spirit to produce his fruit in my life and that I will not attempt to grow the fruit in my own strength. I also pray that I will not seek the fruit or the harvest of the fruit. Help me Lord to seek only you.


In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Visit (in)courage and Read My Guest Post

On September 21st I was the guest writer at the (in)courage website. (in)courage is a part of DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark. This website features many regular Christian writers whose purpose in writing is to encourage others. I feel privileged and honored that the gals at (in)courage invited me to write a guest post on their website. If you would like leave a comment at the end of the post please do so. That way the gals at (in)courage will know that you visited their site and received encouragement!

My post is entitled “Graying With Grace"
You may read more by clicking on the (in)courage button bling on the right side of this page or use this link. http://www.incourage.me/ After you are on the (in)courage website click on the DAILY GUESTS tab located at the top of the page. Although my post is no longer the featured post but you may still locate it by clicking on "Previous Entries" found at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Fragrant Offering







“Be imitators of God, therefore,


as dearly loved children and live a life of love,


just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us


as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”




Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV



One of my favorite flowers are Old Fashioned Lilacs. This flower has become one of my favorites, not because it is the most beautiful flower in my garden but because it is one of the most fragrant! I also love a beautiful pink and white Star Gazer Lily for the same reason. Both of these flowers are indeed beautiful but beauty alone does not make them special. It is their fragrance that endears them to me.

God loves all of his children. Some of us bring him more pleasure than others. I must ask myself, how can I bring God pleasure? I believe it is through my influence more than anything else. In Ephesians Paul tells us that we are to be imitators of God. It is important that our life reflects God character. Some of those character traits are found in the fruits of the spirit. You and I need our life to reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These fragrant qualities are a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.

If my life is a billboard for hate and prejudice, then my influence is not love. If I am negative in all that I say and if I never smile, then my life does not reflect joy. If I am stressed to the limit and crabby because of my stress, if I am full of fear for the unknown, then my life does not reflect peace. If I am impatient with those who serve me and most importantly with my family, then my life does not reflect patience, kindness, and goodness. If my allegiance to God is in direct relationship to how well I feel I am being treated in life, then my life does not reflect faithfulness. If I am hard on others, then my life does not reflect God’s grace and gentleness. If I fly off the handle and indulge in things that are not good for me and speak every negative, sarcastic thought that pops into my head, then my life does not reflect self-control. When my selfishness is so prominent in my life that my actions and words reflect only my selfish interest, then my life is not a fragrant offering, in fact, it stinks! The only thing that I am offering up to God and others is stench instead of love. As a result, my influence is exactly opposite of God’s character. I find myself in the position of being a child of God that does not bring him pleasure. I may look good on the outside but there will be no fragrance coming from inside my life that will bring God glory.

If you are like me, sometimes you get it right and other times you fail. Thankfully, God is a God who knows how to take my failures and sin and cast them away forever. He always stands ready to help me improve and do better next time. God is not finished with any of us yet! I believe that the fragrant offering that I can offer God is the sacrifice of my selfishness. It is my desire to keep returning to my compassionate, merciful God who wants to help me in my time of need. There are many times as believers that we do get it right and God is pleasured when we do. Yet many times a day I am faced with choosing to have better behavior and attitudes. If I am to be a fragrant offering to God and others I must continue to learn to choose to respond as Jesus would.


Questions:

How did you do yesterday?

What did you get right?

Were you a fragrant offering or a stench to God and others?

Is it easier to be kind to strangers and friends than it is to your family?

Have you asked God for his forgiveness for yesterday?

Have you asked God for his help today?


Prayer:

Oh God!

I am so sick of my failures to be loving, patient, and joyful. I confess to you that my failure to respond with gentleness, kindness and goodness is at many times lacking. I am distraught that I often display my lack of faithfulness and self-control. I repent that there are many times that I am anything but gentle. Help me this day, this hour to be your sweet fragrance first of all to my husband, my children, and my friends. Help me also to be your fragrance at work, in the marketplace, on the road, and in all my dealings with those who provide services for me. Thank you God that you are not finished with me yet. God your fragrance of love for me is such a sweet perfume that I can smell it even in the midst of my failure. Thank you for that love.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Perfect Pearl




“…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
When he found one of great value,
he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”


Matthew 13:45-46 NIV



Today I am writing about shopping. If you are like me you love a sale! When I enter a store I head straight to the back to check out what is on the sale racks. Don’t you just love those “red dot” sales and what about those in store coupons? Not to mention the outlet malls! Why do I get so excited about getting a bargain? I think that it is because there is something so exhilarating about finding something of great value at a lesser price. I brag to my friends about my great find and I wear my purchase as a badge of honor! I am so happy that I dance the dance of joy in the dressing room!

Not only do I want a bargain when I go shopping but when it comes to clothes, I also want a perfect fit! In my case that is not easy. That dressing room experience is not always so pretty! I would like to know how in the world the same pair of petite pants can fit a person who is 5’1” and also a person who is 5’4”. And what about those of us who are not perfectly proportioned! We women are an assortment of fat arms, big butts, no necks, giraffe necks, midriff bulge, big thighs, wide shoulders, flat chests, big boobs, and the list goes on and on! Get real, I will go for a bargain but the bottom line is I will pay big bucks for the “perfect” fit!

I was reading in Matthew today about a merchant who was shopping for pearls. The only difference was that this merchant wasn’t looking for a bargain. He was willing to pay a very huge price for the perfect pearl. In this story we learn that the merchant did indeed, find such a pearl and he went away and sold everything he had and bought the priceless pearl. The pearl is symbolic of the kingdom of heaven. The truth found in this scripture tells us that heaven will be worth us selling everything that we own in order to purchase a seat in heaven.

Jesus is also the pearl of great value! When we find the One of great value we are blessed beyond all measure. The twist in this truth is that we do not have to sell all that we have to enter heaven. No, we simply accept the One who gives us access to heaven. Knowing this glorious news brings unspeakable joy to my heart!


Questions:

Do you see yourself being worth the sacrifice that Jesus made for you?

Do you see Jesus as being worth all you have?

Prayer:

Dear Jesus,

You are that perfect One! Thank you for finding me and giving your life, all that you had so that I might find you. Even though you do not ask me to sell all that I own, you do ask me to give up all of my selfish, sinful behavior. Lord, I pray that every day I will be willing to give more of myself to you.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Your Room




“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door
and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”


Matthew 6:6 NIV



I don’t know why Jesus had to tell those people to speak to him in private. Doesn’t it make perfect sense that if you are going to discuss private matters you would want to speak privately to God? Yet there are always those who take great delight in hearing their own voice! Public prayer is not the issue here because Jesus prayed publicly many times. The issue is the arrogance of praying loudly in front of others to bring attention and glory to you instead of God.

There is a time for public prayer and there is a time to pray in your room. For me I enjoy praying with other believers because I feel a sense of unity and support that is found in praying with other Christians. Even if I don’t pray a word out loud my heart can still connect with the hearts of others in the room and God is near. When a pastor or a leader is praying in church I too can silently affirm the words of the one who is speaking to God in behalf of all those present.

But if you really want to experience the “love connection” between you and God you need to get alone with God in your room. Now the room is just symbolic of any quiet place that is out of ear shot and eye shot of others. It can be in your room, in your car, on your porch, a place in nature where you are totally alone, or even in a church. It can be any place where you can be free of distractions and focus completely on God.

I find my attempt at this type of prayer solitude is often a challenge. You see, Satan often accompanies me to my prayer time no matter where I go. You may think that strange but really it is not. His sole intent is to keep our mind active in the affairs of our lives so that our prayer time is hindered. Satan understands that our power is found in our quiet moments of prayer, so he makes every effort to disrupt and interfere.

When I find that interference from Satan is present I simply say out loud, “Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ I command you to leave!” It works every time. The reason that I speak it out loud is because I don’t think Satan can know my thoughts. I believe that God guards our minds. When Satan confronted Jesus, Jesus always rebuked Satan audibly. So I choose to follow his example and do the same.

My time in solitude with Jesus is always special. The verse today says that God rewards what is done in secret, and he does.



Questions:

Have you learned the blessings of getting alone in “your room” to pray?

Have you come to realize that Satan wants to disrupt your prayer time?


Prayer:

Dear Lord,

Help me to be more intentional about the amount of time that I spend alone in “the room” praying. That place of total seclusion that is free from the distraction of people and my responsibilities. When I find that seclusion and pray I am truly at home in the garden of my heart. Thank you Lord that you reward those secluded times of prayer.

In Your Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why is Prayer Necessary?

“Ask and it will be given to you,” Matthew 7:7a NIV

I have in the past wondered why an all powerful God would need me to pray. If God is all knowing, doesn’t he already know what I need? If God is all present then why do I need to tell God about my personal needs or the needs of others? Isn’t he already aware?

The first reason that we should pray is because Jesus taught us by example to pray. Jesus was a billboard for prayer. He prayed in temptation, he prayed before he healed, he prayed before he ate, and he prayed before he performed a miracle. Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and he also prayed for you and me. Jesus prayed for little children. In the garden he prayed to be spared the cross. On the cross Jesus prayed for his enemies. Jesus is still praying for us. “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34 NIV

The second reason that we should pray is that God loves to answer prayer. When the desire of my heart matches God’s desire for me then answered prayer is a done deal. The Bible says that our prayers are pleasing to God. “…the prayer of the upright pleases Him.” Proverbs 15:8b NIV When we ask, we must also believe that God is able to answer our prayer. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus makes it clear that if we don’t ask we will not receive. James 4:3 NIV tells us what can hinder us receiving an answer to our prayer. “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

The third reason we should pray is because prayer changes us. There are examples in the Bible that prayer does change circumstances. Sometimes people were healed, other times their lives were protected and spared from God’s wrath. Many times God extended his mercy because someone prayed. Even when the disciples cried out to Jesus to calm the storm he did.

Other times our prayers are heard but circumstances do not change. Jesus is a prime example of this. God’s perfect will was for Jesus to become the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. Jesus prayed that if possible God would provide another way. I have experienced many answered prayers and many unanswered prayers. It is in my unanswered prayers that God changes me! One time I needed to come to the point of trusting God. Another time I needed to learn that I did not need to be vindicated. Another time God took my anger. On another occasion God taught me humility. It seems I always have a lesson to learn and God used my acceptance of unanswered prayer as a tool in changing my character.

The fourth reason to pray is that prayer provides opportunity for God to minister to us. It is during prayer that God strengthens our faith and comforts us. Even in unanswered prayer God gives us his peace during prayer. It is in prayer that confession of sin is made. During prayer God administers spiritual healing. Prayer is necessary because without prayer none of the above mentioned things could happen. Unless someone prays God does not work. He wants us to need him enough to ask.

The fifth reason we should pray is because Jesus commanded us to pray. We are to pray that our faith will not fail. We are to pray without ceasing. We are to ask God according to his will and it will be given. We are to pray with and for others. We are to give thanks to God in prayer. Jesus knew that prayer would be our communication with him. Prayer is the vehicle that allows us to have a personal relationship with God. Prayer allows us to call upon the Holy Spirit in our time of need. Prayer is always available to us and more dependable than any cell phone ever could be. Prayer is our direct line to heaven!

Questions:

Do you feel that prayer is important?

When has God answered a prayer of yours?

Has God ever changed you and not your circumstance?


Prayer:

Dear God,

I pray that you continue to provide for me exactly what my spirit needs during prayer time. I also want to remember that you desire for me to ask you for what I need and petition you for the needs of others. I pray that you will continue to change me during the times of unanswered prayer.

In Your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.