I was slowly making my way down the aisle in a thrift store when someone caught my attention. She had stopped still in the aisle while approaching my cart from the opposite direction. As my eyes met hers, she stumblingly tried to explain why she was staring at me. “My mother, she used to have a top with the same pattern, only hers was red, and the same white hair . . .” She stopped, unable to go on as her eyes began to water. Instantly, I realized that this was a hurting woman, missing her mom. Without thinking or hesitating, I said, “Awwww,” and released my hold on my cart and reached out to her with open arms. She immediately stepped forward into my hug and soaked it in. As we drew apart, she whispered, “You don’t know how much I needed this!” I replied, “God knows what we need and when we need it!” She responded with, “Then I’m really glad you know God as well as you do . . .” We both had tears in our eyes as we continued on our way down the aisle in opposite directions. She was blessed by receiving a hug from God through me, and I was blessed by knowing that God had entrusted me with making a difference in her life, if only for one day.
A while ago, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, reading an article about nursing in their newsletter, when a sentence caught my eye. A nurse was making a statement about why she chose to make a career of nursing. She said, “I enjoy helping people in need and making a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s just for one day…” (Hasanovic, 2014).
As I sat there reflecting on this thought, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Christians would just try to serve others in need and make a difference in their lives, even if it was just for one day. Because we feel inadequate or unable to do big things for God, sometimes we just sit back and do nothing at all.
If we could only learn to somehow live one day at a time, making ourselves available for God to touch others through us, God only knows what a difference we could make in the lives of others. Sometimes it takes very little to make a huge difference. In one life. If only for one day.
Often, as Christians, we often think our responsibility to be helpful to those in need extends only to our church family. However, even though we should share the needs of our church family, our compassion should extend beyond the four walls of a church building. There are thousands of people in our communities who are in need of our compassion and encouragement, even more than they need material assistance.
Let us endeavor to be like Jesus and take time to make a difference in the lives of others, today and every day!
Galatians 6:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
Acts 10:38 “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”
Did you ever see or hear of someone doing something really stupid and you want to scream, “What were you thinking?” Or perhaps you did scream this, and the reply was, “I wasn’t thinking!” (Evidently they were not thinking of the consequences in which their actions would result.) Or perhaps, like myself, you have done or said something out of character and said to yourself, “What was I thinking???”
The question is not whether to think or not to think, because we all think, all the time. The greater issue is to be intentional about our thinking. As the proverb states, we are what we think in our hearts. (Proverbs 23:7) We may assume that what we think about will not be revealed in our actions, but we are wrong to assume that.
Our thoughts become actions. Our words will reflect what or how we have been thinking. This is the point Jesus was making when He said that whoever looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. (Matthew 5:28) Jesus also stated that those words that come out of our mouths spring from our hearts/thoughts. He went on to say that out of our hearts come not only evil thoughts, but murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cursing. (Matthew 15:19)
This is why we must be intentional about our thinking. How do we do this? By conscientiously being more aware of our thoughts. Do we tend to think positive or negative thoughts about ourselves and others? Do we secretly fantasize about doing things we know are wrong? Do we harbor thoughts of hatred, unforgiveness, grudges, resentment, jealousy, etc.? Do we read stories or watch movies that promote unhealthy sexual relationships or the evils of witchcraft, devil worship, and the occult? What are we feeding our minds? Whatever you feed your mind will influence your thoughts.
We can be intentional about thinking positive, wholesome thoughts by carefully selecting those with whom we surround ourselves or choose as close friends. Choose those who are positive and uplifting. I believe that more important than what we avoid is what we intentionally feed our minds. We can be more selective about our reading materials or forms of entertainment. I like to begin each day with devotional reading accompanied with daily Bible reading. (If you can’t understand the KJV, then reading another version is better than not reading at all!) Choose wholesome places to spend time with friends and family. Attend a church that is community-minded in order to stay connected and involved.
Finally, I encourage you to use these biblical guidelines regarding our thoughts: Are they true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, worthy of excellence and praise? Think these thoughts and practice them. (Philippians 4:8) Let us pray as the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord!” (Psalms 19:14)
Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Isn’t it interesting how two people can look at the same thing and react differently? Even their descriptions can be different and the emotional responses completely opposite! “Reality can be so complex that equally valid observations from differing perspectives can appear to be contradictory.” ( I read this quote recently on a cartoon, but I’m not sure where it originated.)
You have probably experienced this yourself. You know, where each one is positive they are right and the other is absolutely wrong! In reality, the truth is probably somewhere in between.
The way we see things is sometimes skewed by past experiences, prejudices, fears, emotions, or positional viewpoints. I read a simple example of this in a story about two children who were arguing about which one was right on the playground at school. The teacher took them inside to her classroom, set a ball on a desk between them and asked each one to name the color of the ball. One said it was red and the other said it was blue. An argument again ensued until the teacher had them switch sides and had them name the color again. To their surprise, the ball was red on one side and blue on the other. It was an enlightening lesson that taught them that perspective matters!
How you choose to view something can make the difference between hope and despair; achievement or disaster; victory or defeat. You can look at something from your own perspective only, or you can look at it from all sides before taking a stand or making a decision that can be harmful or ruinous to yourself or others. Or it may simply be the difference between having a good day or a bad day. One person may get up on a rainy morning and grumble while their sick neighbor may simply be happy that God has given them one more day.
What got me thinking about this was the passage of Scripture in Ezra 3:11-13 describing the rebuilding of the temple. Verse twelve says, “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.” What a contrast! The older folks were looking at the past while others were looking forward to the future!
If we’re not careful, we can be guilty of the same: looking back at “the good ol’ days” and how things used to be, and neglecting to see what is happening today and what is in store for the future. We can bemoan the loss of old-fashioned brush arbors and tent revivals and not see what God is doing today and the possibilities of the future. Culture may change, but God never changes. He has promised that He will build His church and the very powers of hell cannot stop Him. So are we trusting God with that? Are we looking at the younger generation and focusing on the many that are actively involved in ministry, missions, and Kingdom work in unprecedented numbers? I am, and I am thrilled with what I am seeing. It may not be happening in your church right now, but it can if you will choose to change your perspective and begin to believe in our youth, encourage them, and allow them to be active and involved.
I choose to see a great move of God and have hope for the future . . .
Time is my enemy...
Always has been. Always will be. Until time shall be no more. Hallelujah!
I am looking forward to the end of time almost as much as I am anticipating the second return of Jesus Christ. Because then I will no longer have time as my enemy.
Time is very sneaky. It creeps up on you when you’re not paying attention and then sends you into a frenzy trying to compensate. Time sometimes silently steals away and hides; when you realize it is gone, you panic and try to find it again.
Time is our greatest commodity, but because it is in disguise and overlooked, we tend to disregard it and waste it. Ask any mother who is wandering through empty bedrooms, wondering how her children could possibly be away to college, or married, or just left the nest to try their wings, when only yesterday she was watching them take their first steps . . .
I look in the mirror and see my mother (or, sometimes my great-grandmother!) and think I must be hallucinating! How did I get this old so quickly? My mind still thinks I can do some things and my body says, No Way!
Is there anything at all I can do to fight my enemy, Time? Yes! Ephesians chapter five encourages us to be imitators of God and walk in Love. The chapter goes on to tell us to wake up and let God’s light shine on us and through us, and walk through each day in the wisdom of God. By doing this, we will make the best use of our time, or as the King James version puts it, “redeeming the time.”
This phrase is also used in Colossians, chapter four, when the church is encouraged to pray, walk in wisdom, and speak graciously to everyone.
Jesus didn’t spend much time here on earth, only 33 ½ years, and then only three and one-half years of that in ministry training with the disciples. Yet, what He accomplished in that short amount of time is still effecting and changing lives today!
So, how can I combat time and conquer it? By letting Christ live in and through me! Every day. I must redeem the time, because we are living in an evil world. I need to begin each day praying that God’s love and light would shine and flow through me to those who are in darkness, hurting, broken, lonely, bitter, angry, rejected, and lost.
Would you join with me, my friend, and help me to fight against time that is flying by so quickly? We don’t know how much time we have left; how many more days before Christ returns or our own days come to an end. Please, let us work together, redeeming the time, while we still have life and breath.
Thank you, and may God bless your efforts!
"I'm exhausted!" My husband and I have exclaimed this many times lately! Anyone who has ever gone through the tiring process of moving, getting a house ready to put on the market, downsizing, trying to sell stuff that has accumulated over the years, etc., knows what I'm talking about.
Perhaps it is because of my own state of mind that a phrase in a verse I was reading this morning really caught my attention: "exhausted yet pursuing" (Judges 8:4). It was in reference to Gideon and his men in pursuit of the kings of Midian. Twice they asked others for help, food to help them keep up their strength, but did not receive it. Yet they continue to pursue, tired, hungry, and exhausted. Because of their perseverance, they were successful and won a great victory.
This reminded me of another instance when King David and his men were pursuing the Amalekites in order to retrieve their families that had been taken captive. There were some soldiers that were just too exhausted to go on, and David allowed them to stay and watch over the baggage. (1 Samuel 30:8-25) They were fairly rewarded with the spoils of war because of their faithfulness. They could not go on, but they did not desert.
That brings me to a third example of exhaustion displayed by Esau when he returned from hunting. He was so self-absorbed that all he could think of was his exhaustion, to the point of selling his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34)
I would like to use these three examples today to encourage someone to not give up! You may be tired, exhausted both physically and spiritually, but keep the faith! Even if you reach a point where you feel like you can't go on, be faithful in what you can do. Take the time for restoration and refreshing, but don't be a deserter from God's army. God rewards faithfulness! Don't sell out and lose all that God has promised to those who endure to the end.
Are you feeling exhausted today? Go to God, the source of our strength! He reminds us in Isaiah, that even young people get exhausted at times. If we will spend time in His presence, He will renew our strength and allow us to rise up once again, and our spirits can soar!
Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
This morning I walked into the empty bedroom that had just recently been vacated by my oldest son, who had moved into it after it had been vacated by my youngest son. My husband and I are now, for the first time in twenty-six years, rattling around in a house void of children. As I looked around the empty room, I realized I had two choices: I could either be sad by focusing on the past and how much I missed them both, or I could rejoice and be thankful for the many blessings they brought into my life. I remembered the many prayers offered up to God for them, gratefully realizing how many of those prayers have been answered already and believing God to continually answer ongoing prayers.
Which way we are looking each day of our lives will determine our future. Are we looking back and continually living in the past, or is our focus on what God is doing in our lives today and what He will continue to do in our future? The past is unchangeable, but the future is abundant with possibilities, hope, and expectancy! Who knows what the future holds? As faith-filled children of God we know that, whatever happens, it can only be for our eventual good.
Thinking along these lines, I liken it to the many mornings I awake with my face three feet from the wall, seeing only the beautiful quilt hanging there. I am lying there on the edge of the bed, hardly moving from the position in which I fell asleep the night before. The scene is beautiful, but not really fulfilling. As I turn over, I realize my husband has left for the gym and I have the entire bed to myself. I luxuriously scoot over to the middle of the bed, stretch out, and expand my view. I lie there thinking of how this relates to many Christians.
While some may be in the Kingdom of God, barely, all they do is focus on what they have left behind and envy those that possess the ‘beauty’ of this present world. What they need to do is turn and behold the expanse, excitement, riches, beauty, and adventure the Kingdom of God holds for them. Stretch out, not in a king-size, but a ‘kingdom-sized’ bed of rest in the Holy Ghost! What God has in store for us is beyond what we could imagine!
So today I would like to encourage you to stretch out, spread your wings and fly into the many freedoms that are available to you in the boundless Kingdom of God! Freedom to love extravagantly, give generously, live abundantly, forgive graciously, to enjoy the blessings God bestows upon us each day, and to embrace His mercies which are new every morning!
1 Corinthians 2:9 (KJV) But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.
How does one hear the voice of God? How do I know if I am in God’s will? I don’t know where to go from here! What is God trying to do in my life? Am I to go or stay? Is there really a call of God on my life, or is it just my own dreams and desires?
I am sure all Christians have asked many, or all, of these questions at some point. We so desperately want to be in God’s will and to be obedient to whatever He wants us to do for Him in this world that we live in. We don’t want to waste the precious years of our lives going around in circles, or just spinning our wheels and going nowhere, doing nothing. But still we have questions, doubts, and unfulfilled dreams.
I do not even pretend to have the answers to these questions, but I do have some experience in walking by faith. I remember a few lines from a Carmen song: “Your desire is the confirmation the destination is there. God wouldn't put it in your spirit if it wasn't going nowhere. So set your sights on the promises and don't you be scared. 'Cause your desire is the confirmation the destination is there.”
If you have dreams and desires that are in accord with God’s Word, then you are on the right track. Continue to walk on in faith, doing what you know is right daily, and trust God’s timing and His ability to get you where He wants you. The saying, ‘you can’t steer a parked car,’ is true. As long as we are doing all we know to do, God will do the steering. He can get us to where He wants us easily.
Also, be reassured that everyone that says, ‘God told me,’ didn’t necessarily hear an audible voice speaking to them. It may have come as a forceful thought out of nowhere that seemed audible. Or it could have come as a nudge or feeling as God’s Spirit tugged them in a certain direction in life. God uses many ways of ‘speaking’ to us. Often times He speaks to us directly through His Word. Sometimes He uses those in ministry to speak into our lives. Other times He uses circumstances that are beyond our control to speak to us and get us where He wants us.
In the earlier years of my ministry, God used a friend of mine who had just graduated from Bible School to talk me into going with her to help some Home Missionaries start a new church in a city about 120 miles from my hometown. It was a step of faith, but God was faithful and there is a thriving church in that city today. There have been many other ‘steps/leaps of faith’ since then, and God has always been faithful!
Let me encourage you today to prepare yourself to be used of God. Spend time in His presence and in His Word. Be faithful in worship and look for opportunities every day to be Jesus in this world. Your mission field may be closer than you realize!
Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV) Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
I woke up this morning to the news that a friend of mine since childhood, who was my age, had died suddenly. I was shocked, to say the least, and considered my own mortality. It seems in recent days I have heard from friends and family a bombardment of crises, deaths, difficult decisions, car accidents, cancer diagnoses, hospitalizations, job situations, sickness/health problems, church situations, financial needs, overwhelming stress, etc. As a country, we are experiencing natural disasters like we have never seen before. Sometimes it seems like I am holding my breath, wondering what will happen next.
I was thinking of all this when suddenly I realized I was humming this song:
In times like these you need a Savior,
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He's the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
Even though my mind was considering the difficulties, my spirit knew the answer! I must be anchored in something greater than myself, my family, my career, my government, or anything else that can be moved, shaken, broken apart, or destroyed. I have learned since childhood that the only unmovable, unchanging, unfailing, constant anchor in my life is God. If I do not want to be left drifting helplessly, with no hope in sight, then I must be sure, very sure, that He is my anchor, my only anchor.
People, relationships, businesses, governments, even churches, may fail us at some time or other, because they consist of imperfect humanity. Many times, the failures are unintentional, but the hopeless, broken feelings are still there. It is in times like these, especially, that we need an anchor! We need something sure and steadfast in which to be anchored!
In times like these . . . I have an anchor!
Psalm 43:5 (ESV)
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Honestly, it’s been a rough month or so. It seems like I have been on a bad roller coaster ride. It started off exciting! I was in Maine, enjoying vacation time, visiting with friends and relatives, attending church camp meetings; life was wonderful! Then the drop … the phone call I never wanted to receive. My brother calling with bad news: “I have been diagnosed with cancer and probably only have six months to live.” Further tests revealed that the cancer was more wide-spread than they first thought: brain, lungs, and hip. Ups and downs of treatments, tests, hospitalization, nursing home, and then home on hospice, all within a few weeks. Interspersed with all this there were days of laughter and reminiscing. Then another phone call, another plunge, “He’s taken a turn for the worse,” so now it’s down to days. Finally, “He’s gone!” How was that even possible, to happen so quickly?
Following those five, short weeks were tense trips to the ER visiting other family members, happily welcoming my youngest son and his wife back home from a missions trip, sharing disappointments and difficult decisions about the future with family, enjoying a great unexpected weekend getaway . . . yeah, ups and downs on life’s roller coaster!
Life can be like that sometimes. Sickness, death, disappointments, struggles, and fears. Yes, there may have been some good moments in the midst, but human nature seems to focus on the bad, the negative, the senselessness of it all.
I have found that I must be intentional about focusing on the positive, so as not to be easily overwhelmed by the negative. But how does one do that? I certainly cannot do that by looking at the world around me. The newscasters do not seek to spread good, uplifting, or encouraging stories. It’s just one disastrous, tragic event after another. It’s certainly not by surfing the internet or social media drama. So where does one look?
We can only look to the source of all hope, Jesus Christ! Paul the Apostle wrote that if in this life only we have hope, we would be most miserable. How true! Our hope must be in the only One who can give us hope, not only in this life, but for eternity!
In looking to God’s Word today for that hope and uplifting, I focus on two verses found in the book of Psalms. The first verse is Psalm 27:14 – “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” The second one has a similar message, Psalm 31:24 – “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”
I especially like the Message version of these two verses: “Stay with God! Take heart. Don't quit. I'll say it again: Stay with God,” and “Be brave. Be strong. Don't give up. Expect God to get here soon.”
I glean from these two verses the following truths:
In what are you placing your hope today? From whom do you receive strength and the courage to face tomorrow? Jesus has never failed me when I’ve turned to Him with complete trust. Please, let me encourage you today to take hope in the Lord!