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Devotionals: First I Bow

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Revised Updated

Through Scripture, Prayers,
Verse and Devotionals,
FIRST I BOW, will help you connect
with God and start (or end)
your day on the right note,
knowing God is there,
He cares and He offers
guidance, peace and hope.

Click here for Kindle Version


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Other Side of Love

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.--II Corinthians 2:4

We live in a culture that often tries to smooth things over, not make waves and not get involved. In doing so, we let the poison of hurt and hate infect our families, our relationships and our culture.

We seem to have forgotten something very important. Confrontation is another side of love and caring. Permissiveness may seem loving, but what is loving about leaving someone, especially a child, without the security of limitations and the knowledge of how the real world works?

In the real world, how they behave has consequences. What they say and do matters. The same goes for us. Sometimes, confronting someone for doing wrong is the most loving thing we can do for them.

What is loving about allowing someone to keep walking into danger or to cause hurt with words or behavior? Of course, we need to confront without anger and with a caring attitude.

God calls us to a higher standard--caring enough to confront wrong. Do I have the courage to confront?

(c) 2009, 2016 Carolyn R Scheidies FIRST I BOW pg 22-23


Below are other devotionals to encourage, challenge and inspire you in your walk of faith. 

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IMPORTANCE OF REFLECTION

But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean. --Luke 2:19 NET

In our rushed, instant culture, how often do we take time to think, meditate, ponder, reflect? Yet God asks us to do just that with admonitions to "Be still...," "Come away," "Think on these things."

We become what we spend time thinking, reading, viewing, interacting with...pondering.

What we spend time filling our minds and lives with has consequences in what we value and how we live. God is love, hope, peace. The more time we take reflecting on God's Word, the more our lives will reflect Him.

How much time am I willing to spend each day reflecting on God's Word in order that my thoughts and life reflect what God values--forgiveness, love...life?

(c) 2014, 16 Carolyn R Scheidies

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WHO/WHAT DO WE CHOOSE?
(c) 2016 Carolyn R Scheidies

But the high priests and elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to demand that Jesus be put to death. So the governor asked them, “Which of the two men do you want me to release for you?”
“Barabbas!” they replied. --Matthew 27:20-21 ISV

Those people choose a murderer over Jesus. Who or what do we choose over the one we claim to serve--family, relationships, work, position, status, striving for wealth or acclaim, some charismatic leader?

What do we put in place of studying God's Word? Do we take time for prayer--communication and listening?

Do we, you, me choose things that don't matter--video games, texting, TV --junk over Jesus? It matters. As in Jesus' day, our choices have consequences. Who do you choose today--Barabbus or Jesus?

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NOT A DEAD GOD
(c) 2016 Carolyn R Scheidies

"I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." --Matthew 22:32 ISV

Do we truly realize we serve a living Lord who created
us cares about us, and knows us?
Do our words and behavior and choices show our faith is real or do they reveal us
as shallow, self centered and anything
but the Christ followers we claim to be!

Do we read His Word and communicate with Jesus
on a personal level or do we go our own way?
Do we live for "me" or for Jesus-who lives and loves,
is here and cares--today?
Do we know the difference?

HIS PURPOSE OR MINE?

(c) 2016 Carolyn R Scheidies

"Follow me," he told them, "and I will make you fishers of people!" --Matthew 4:19 ISV

We're here to do more than raise families and work. As Christ followers we have a greater purpose--sharing Christ with those around us,

We share with our lifestyles, our behavior and our words. Instead, too often in this culture, we're more afraid of our jobs, embarrassment and how we will be perceived, than the truth that without Jesus friends, family and acquaintances will be separated from God for eternity.

Hell is real. So is Heaven. The question--is my faith stronger than my fears and my concern for others stronger than consequences of living out my faith in a hostile environment--Today's America?

When was the last time I shared my faith with someone who doesn't know Christ? Am I am fulfilling God's purpose for me!

God who is Real

Teach me your ways, LORD, that I may walk in your truth; let me wholeheartedly revere your name. -- Psalm 86:11 ISV

Do I truly want to follow the real God of the Bible or only my avatar of Him? It makes all the difference and starts with regular communication with Him, and the studying of His communication with us--the Bible.

Praise
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! --Psalm 150:6 MKJV

Gratitude isn't just for worship, not just for kindnesses offered. God wants gratitude to be a basic value, a habitual attitude. When we bless instead of curse, complement instead of complain, we lift up rather than tear down.

When we anchor our lives in Jesus and make honoring and praising Him a daily habit, we foster an attitude of gratitude that spills out in out other relationships. In having an attitude of gratitude, we bring peace instead of conflict and hope instead of despair.

Most of all we allow God's love to flow.

It Makes a Difference
(c) 2016 Carolyn R Scheidies

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—keep thinking about these things. Likewise, keep practicing these things: what you have learned, received, heard, and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. -- Philippians 4:8-9 ISV

What we put in our minds does make a difference. We become what fills our thoughts. God and righteous input leads to thoughts, words and actions that lift up and bring peace and grace. input that grieves God, that are against His Word and harmful to us and others leads to separation from God and all that is good and upright.

We cannot continue to play with fire and not get burned--physically, emotionally and spirituality. Do I think on good things--which starts with what I feed my mind?

Not a Walk in the Park

(c) 2015 Carolyn R Scheidies

You greatly rejoice in this (salvation), even though you have to suffer various kinds of trials for a little while,... 1 Peter 1:7

Christianity isn’t for wimps. God never promised an easy life. He does promise His presence, provision, protection and, most of all, His peace through whatever storms enter our lives. It means that no matter what we go through, He is there, He suffers with us, and His presence makes a difference in ultimate outcome--whether that is life here or in eternity. Only Christ brings comfort rather than despair and hope in the darkness. It seems easy to give up and blame God when our world is rocked and things don’t go as “I” think they should.

We turn away from Him when we need Him the most. For He is the only one who is always there fighting with and for us. In both sorrow and joy, He is there. He knows. How can I not turn toward and trust the One who created me, who keeps me grounded in reality and who is there ready to reach out when I turn to Him?

Best Thing We Can Do For Our Kids

Rock-solid security is found in the fear of the LORD, and within it one’s children find refuge. --Proverbs 14:26 ISV

The best thing we can do for our children is to make Christ our center and foundation. Life is treacherous enough. What we can best show our kids is where and how to know true security, which is found only in Christ.

Using Discernment in Sharing

In the multitude of words there is no lack of disobedience, but he who restrains his lips does wisely.--Proverbs 10:19 NHEB

We live at a time in which we share constantly. We share good news and bad. We share intimate details of our lives. We pass on gossip and tidbits of, often, inaccurate information with little thought to truth. Elections are won and lost on distortions and outright lies.

Yet, God cautions us. The wise person knows when to keep his/her own counsel, knows when to keep information private. This person also learns to listen, go beyond shallow gossip, even of the media, to discern truth.

Am I wise and discerning, or do I run ahead of God's leading, spilling my mind senselessly and making life decisions on shallow grounds?

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. --Proverbs 10:31 NHEB

Standing

Remain alert. Keep standing firm in your faith. Keep on being courageous and strong.-- 1Corinthians 16:13 ISV

Most don't walk away from God all at once. There are little choices along the way. Usually based on unresolved issues for which God is blamed. Instead of trusting, one stops reading the Bible or starts intellectualizing the message within. Distance grows and praying no longer seems to have value. Finally, a person stands alone with no relationship to God, and with a heart that is hurt and empty. 

We don't need to go that route. It does mean we need to stay alert and stand firm in faith even when we don't understand. It means not making those small choices that put a barrier between us and God and to resolve issues instead of avoiding them. It is coming to God for answers instead of walking away and shutting Him it out. It is spending more time with Him, not less with one sincere question--show me, Lord.

We can stand strong, but only in Him.

Two-way Communication 

When I called out, you answered me; you strengthened me.-- Psalm 138:3 ISV

The big difference with the Christian faith and religion is that Jesus is not some far off capricious being who must be placated or begged for attention. He is not found in images or icons--and strictly forbids them. 

Jesus is our loving, caring Creator who is here and near. He desires not the relationship of lowly minion to master, which is what we are, but the relationship of student to mentor, friend to friend. He desires a relationship with two-way communication. 

This means that throwing out commands and demands are not going to engender a positive response anymore than it does with our family and friends here. Prayer is sharing, asking, worshiping...and listening. As we listen through his Word or that still small voice--He speaks. As we listen, He answers the deepest needs of our being. And, as we listen and follow His guidance, we are strength for life's journey. 

Vast Difference

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways,” declares the Lord. “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” --Isaiah 55:8-9 (GW)

We get mad when we can't figure out what God is doing. Somehow, we think we know better than who? Our Creator. Really! We know better than the One who knows the future, our past and our motivations? We know better than the One who loves us enough to die for us to offer us life forever? We know better than the One who promises to be with us through good times and bad?

We're like the little pea in the vast garden who tries to flee from the gardener. Quite frankly, our efforts only get us into trouble and are silly on the face of it. God must smile (or frown) and shake His head at the antics of His children.

He has told us in His Word that He has a plan and purpose for our lives. And it is good. Instead of fighting Him, maybe it is time to start listening to He who really has our best in mind--it we follow Him.

Why?

He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds. He determines the number of stars. He gives each one a name. Our Lord is great, and his power is great. There is no limit to his understanding. The Lord gives relief to those who are oppressed.... --Psalm 147:3-6a (GW)

Why then do we not trust this amazing God who created us, loves us and actually sacrificed His life for us? Why don't we turn to Him, not just when our lives are in complete chaos, but also in our everyday lives? God does not only want to be the "go to" guy for emergencies. He desires a relationship every moment of every day. Our BFF.

Communication is not difficult. A prayer is like a text you can send any time and He answers when we wait and "listen." Why would we not cultivate this relationship and rejoice that we have the ear of God? 

Finding Meaning Beyond ME

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. --Mark 9:35 KJV

Life is not all about me. Many believe that putting ME first will make life work. While we do need to take care of ourselves so we can reach out to others, focusing on ME turns us into shallow individuals and sucks the humanity out of our lives. It is those who sacrifice for others, see the world beyond themselves who are truly whole, who live life to the fullest and who find beauty, meaning and satisfaction in themselves, family, work and life itself. 

Truth and Faith

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:24 KJV

God isn't some icon we bow down to. He is living and real. When we try to treat Jesus as some sort of "religion" or "tradition" to follow, we miss the whole point of the Christian faith. Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. We can only approach Him as a real being who loves and cares for us. 

It also means coming to Him on His terms. He offers life, but we have to acknowledge our need of Him. He offers forgiveness, but we must ask. He offers peace, but only when we allow Him into our lives. 

Christ isn't about truth. He IS truth. He isn't about life. He IS life. He isn't about peace. He IS our life and hope and peace. Without Him we will fail to live the life of wholeness God desires for us. 

That life starts by worshiping Him and asking Him to take center-stage in our lives, thoughts and decisions. That choice impacts everything we believe and live. 

Do I truly worship Him or a facsimile god of my own creation?

Evil is Deceitful and We Help

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13 KJV

There is real evil in the word, though evil seldom presents itself to us as evil. Instead, evil comes disguised as enlightenment, entertainment or rationalization. The further away we are from God, the more we'll be drawn in. We begin to believe God's Word is optional, not true and should not dictate our thoughts or behavior. And, that is a lie from the evil one. 

However, the more we communicate with Jesus, the more we ready, study, meditate and believe His Word, the less we will be drawn in and fooled by our own deceitful imaginations, intellect and what we think is rational thought. 

When God's Word is not central to our lives--evil has a field day. 
What place does God's Word have in my daily life. 

How to Achieve Peace

He has sent his word to the descendants of Israel and brought them the good news of peace through Jesus the Messiah. This man is the Lord of everyone. -- Act 10:36 ISV

Everyone talks of peace while arguing with family and friends and doing things that do not lead to peace. Peace doesn't happen in a vacuum. It doesn't happen long-term with agreements, contracts or treaties.

Peace comes from within. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. True, long-lasting peace starts with Him--for ourselves, our families, nation and our world.

What better time than Christmas to commit to peace by asking the Christ of Christmas to live within and direct our lives toward HIM?

Joy-Filled Season

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Break forth into joyful songs of praise! --Psalm 98:4 ISV

Here it is the Christmas season and there is so much for which to be thankful. Yet too often we allow presents, parties and busy-ness to replace the quiet gratitude and true joy of the season--Jesus has come to bring love and joy and hope.

Let us make this Christmas a season of thankfulness and one of giving a "joyful noise to the Lord."

Power

His lightning bolts light the world; the earth sees and shakes. -- Psalm 97:4 ISV

Fireworks are a human's idea of recreating God's magnificent lightning displays in the sky. Fireworks are gorgeous, but God's heavenly displays signify power as well as light--power far beyond ours.

Isn't it comforting to know we serve a living, loving Lord who has the power to make a real difference in our lives when we ask!

What is Due Him

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name, bring an offering and enter his courts! --Psalm 96:8 ISV 

When our lives fall apart, we tend to come to God begging, pleading and demanding that He do something on our behalf. When our lives are not in crisis, do we show the same intensity about communicating with Him? Do we honor and worship God every day, including Sunday, giving Him prime time in our minds, lives and day?

God isn't our personal genie. He wants a relationship with us. If we desire Him as our protector, provider and our peace, we need to know who He is, know what He asks of us and be in constant contact with Him through His Word and prayer. He'll show up--if we will. 

Will I, do I "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name...?"

Beyond Feelings

Come! Let us sing joyfully to the LORD! Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us shout with songs of praise to him. -- Psalm 95:1-2 ISV

Sometimes we don't feel like praising God or even acknowledging Him. That's when our mind can overrule feelings.

Even in difficult circumstances we can choose to move beyond feelings and start listing His blessings. Worshipping Him allows His peace and hope to flow within, lifts the spirit and opens the door to joy. 

Move Closer

For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage. Righteousness will be restored with justice, and all the pure of heart will follow it. --Psalm 94:14-15 ISV 

The nation and the world may seem to be going "to hell in a handbasket" as an old saying goes. When fear and depression hit, remember, God is over all. He may allow the consequences of sin and wrong choices to play out. But He does not abandon those who follow Him. 

Instead of giving up or getting angry and bitter, move closer to Him. 

Focus

When things aren't going well, it is easy to mope, lose hope and start complaining. That is the very time we need to count our blessings.

Focusing on the positive instead of the negative lifts us out of depression, reminds us blessings outweigh the bad stuff and changes our perspective.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praise to your name, Most High;..-- Psalm 92:1 ISV

Who's CEO?

Before the mountains were formed or the earth and the world were brought forth, you are God from eternity to eternity. --Psalm 90:2 ISV

God is forever. He is our Creator. He also came and gave His life for His human creations-because He cared. He is powerful and He is  good.

He, more than anyone else, can protect, provide and guide our lives and futures. He can and will do more for us than Warren Buffet--and care more.

A relationship with Jesus matters. So why don't we want to spend more time with Him? Why do we keep shutting Him out of our lives and choices?

Help me, Lord, make You the CEO of my life. Amen!

Giving Thanks

I will sing forever about the gracious love of the LORD; from generation to generation I will declare your faithfulness with my mouth. -- Psalm 89:1 ISV

This is the special day set aside by our founders to remember to praise God and give thanks. They honored God, recognizing that without His guidance and blessing, our  nation would never have been born as a land of liberty and freedom.

In the midst of our busy Thanksgiving celebration, let us remember to give thanks to God today for His faithfulness.

Being Thankful for His Word

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. But these have been recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and so that through believing you may have life in his name. --John 20:30-31 ISV 

Many try to discredit the Bible and thus Jesus as God. They twist, revise and make declarations based not on science or good research, but on their own bankrupt belief system. But the Bible holds only a fraction of what Jesus did and accomplished. His disciples believed because they witnessed it all.

We have the privilege of having God's Word readily accessible, yet often keep it on a shelf. This book is life. It is our Faith in words to comfort, guide and bring hope.

Why not thank God for this gift and commit to making reading/studying the Bible a part of your daily routine.

The Shadow on the Holidays

 Carrying the cross all by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of a Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, along with two others, one on each side of him with Jesus in the middle.  Pilate wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus from Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” --John 19:17-19 ISV

At this time of the year, with the holidays near and as the excitement for Christmas builds, we need to know Jesus did more than come as a cute baby in a manger to bring hope and peace. Jesus came to bring peace and life within.

He came not to institute a fun holiday, but to sacrifice His life that all who come to Him will have life forever. He rose that He can be with us day by day, offering  guidance, comfort and hope.

The manger is shadowed by the cross. And I bow in worship.

Life

And this is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent—Jesus the Messiah. --John 17:3 ISV 

What brings life and hope into our lives? It is drawing closer to the one who created us. How? By communicating with Him regularly. Making Him part of our daily lives and knowing what He expects of us by reading, studying and knowing His Word. Letting Him speak to us through prayer, through His Word and through others. 

Do I understand that life is Jesus? Without Him there is no life and no future. Do I live like I believe this--allowing Him to make a difference in my life and choices?

The Promise

I’ve told you this so that my peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world. --John 16:33

Too many believe that accepting Jesus into their lives means nothing bad will ever happen to them again. The opposite is true. There is evil, and Satan does everything he can to disrupt the lives of those who choose to follow Christ. 

In fact, Jesus says His followers will have problems, pain and trials. Life is life and we need to deal with the reality that following Christ doesn't insulate us from experiencing the bad as well as the good. What God does promise is to be with us through those problems, pain and trouble. He won't let go. He will comfort, heal, guide and bring inner peace--even in the worst of circumstances. 

That's a promise worth cashing in on with a Savior worth trusting. 

Right Source

Abide in me, and I will abide in you. Just as the branch cannot produce fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who abides in me while I abide in him produces much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. -- John 15:4-5 ISV

Without God our efforts, good works and lofty ideals will hit a wall. Good has to have a source. God is love and hope. If we forget that He is our center, our foundation and our source, we will fail when exhaustion and frustration sets in, and when motivation becomes less than altruistic.

But when we allow the love of Jesus to  flow through us to those around us--starting with our own families--nothing is impossible.

Believe

God is not some grandfather sitting on a cloud someplace waiting to do our bidding. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe as we know it.

God became man in the form of Jesus Christ. Through His life, death and resurrection, Jesus offers life, forgiveness and hope to all who ask.

Life is hard. Why not live it in His light, love and leading?

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me." -- John 14:1 ISV

Willing to Serve

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer robe, he sat down again and told them, “Do you realize what I’ve done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right because that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you must also wash one another’s feet. I’ve set an example for you, so that you may do as I have done to you. --John 13:12-15 ISV 

It takes time and energy to plan Sunday morning to pick up a child or family for church or Sunday School. It takes time and gas to pick up or deliver someone to an appointment. It takes effort to comfort, reach out, make a difference. 

Easier to give money than time. Jesus wasn't afraid to look foolish or to do the tough, non-glorious jobs. He didn't make sure the cameras were rolling when He did something good and helpful. 

As Christians, we should be known by our love and concern for others. What can I do today to reach out, build up and make a difference in someone's life?

Words Follow Actions

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! How blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” -- John 12:13 ISV

The crowd openly showed how they felt and without fear. How many of us hide our faith, fearing ridicule, embarrassment or social, work or even legal repercussions? We don't help others when we hide what should be the very core of who we are.

We can live for Christ by our choices, lifestyle, actions and in how we show care for others. Words of faith have impact when backed up by how we live our lives and how we treat others every day.

Choices Follow Belief

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in me, even though he dies, will live. Indeed, everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe that?” 
   “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.” --John 11:25-27 ISV 

Do we live as though our God actually lives--that He hears what we say snd do? Or do we act as though God is deaf and blind, not caring our words and actions insult Him?

If we believe, our actions and choices will mirror our claim to belong to Him. Today do I rejoice because knowing Him gives me joy as  I serve Jesus--my living, loving Lord?

Pass it On

He established a decree in Jacob, and established the Law in Israel, that he commanded our ancestors to reveal to their children in order that the next generation— children yet to be born— will know them and in turn teach them to their children. Then they will put their trust in God and they will not forget his awesome deeds. Instead, they will keep his commandments. --Psalm 78:5-7 ISV  

If we want our families and nation to continue to hold and to practice Christian principles and values, we have to pass on our faith to those around us--especially the next generation. The schools and churches are not responsible, we are. These days, if anything, many schools instill values very different from what parents may want instilled. We have failed our children and we reap the results in more violence, more intolerance for faith and a government that tramples religious rights. 

We need to pass on a Godly heritage to children and grandchildren and that starts by living by God's principles in our daily lives. It means letting God's Word direct our lives and live lives that allow God's love to flow through us as we stand for truth and righteousness. It means sharing our faith in very real ways and helping our children develop a relationship with Jesus through prayer and knowing His Word. 

How will I pass on my faith today?

Footprints

 Your road went through the sea. Your path went through raging water, but your footprints could not be seen. Like a shepherd, you led your people. You had Moses and Aaron take them by the hand. Psalms 77: 19-20 GW

Most have seen the picture or heard the poem about the footprints in the sand. The question was, when there is only one set of footprints, where were you, Lord?. The answer, "That's when i carried you." 

God is our caring shepherd. He may lead through raging waters, over narrow mountain passes or through the desert, but He doesn't leave us. When we cling to Him, follow where He leads, we will come out of the other side of our problems and pain stronger, better and with more compassion for others going through rough times. 

The key is to follow those footprints wherever they lead...and, while following God can sometimes be scary, Christ is a trustworthy shepherd who will always protect His own, leading us to quiet waters.

The Hunger Within

 Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty. --John 6:35 ISV

There is an empty place, like a hungry stomach, inside each of us that needs to be filled. Many fill this void with family, friends, work or religion and the striving to be good or to be sombody.

̉thers fill this void with alcohol, drugs or sex. None of these things satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts or stops the hunger. We were created not just for ritual, but for a personal relationship with our Creator. We hunger to know and be known, To know someone is there who truly cares. Jesus is that Someone.

He satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts. But we must come, learn of Him and ask Him to fill that hungry place with His love. Is my faith mere form that leads to am empty life or is my life full and rich with Him?

Guidance

You will guide me with your wise advice, and later you will receive me with honor. --Psalm 73:24 ISV 

God is here, He wants us to communicate with Him about our needs, our lives, our hopes, our fears and our doubts. God's Word offers hope, answers, comfort, and peace.

But we don't know what His guidance is unless we communicate with Him, unless we read and meditate on His Word.

God waits for us to come, ask, listen and follow. Do I spend time each day seeking not just guidance, but also to better know Him? For only as I make Him the center of my life will I come to recognize His voice within.

Spread the Word

 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. --Psalm 72:19 (KJV)

The Psalmist wasn't afraid to express his praise to God for his many blessings. David's life was anything but smooth sailing. Yet he looked beyond his own bad choices and the consequences, looked beyond war and betrayal--even within his own family, to see God working in his life. 

He wasn't afraid to tell others that God is good and deserved to be honored, praised and worshiped. 

Are we as willing to be public with our faith as the Psalmist? Do we spend, each day, more of our prayer time praising or more in complaining and demanding answers? 

Let's all praise the Lord today and be lifted up.

The Choice

My mouth will tell about your righteousness, about your salvation all day long. Even then, it is more than I can understand. --Psalm 71:15 GW

I don't pretend to understand God or the way He chooses to answer prayer. He promises to be our provider, our protector and our peace. His comfort is there for the asking, though we often choose to live in fear, rather than with a faith that trusts God really does have a plan and a purpose.

It is hard when I don't see it. Hard when circumstances seem to go completely opposite everything God promises. 

Yet, my place isn't to complain and turn away. My place, if I truly believe God and His Word, is to choose to stand on His promises, share His message with others, and hang on--come what may. My place is to follow Him no matter what and wait for Him.

When We Can't Go On Alone

Blessed be the Lord who daily carries us. God is our deliverer. --Psalm 68:19 ISV 

There are times we don't feel we can go on. We're exhausted from life and circumstances. We may have cried all the tears we can cry and are overwhelmed. This is the time many turn away from God, blaming Him for the circumstances. 

However, this is the very time God offers more than a shoulder to cry on. When we come to Him, He picks us up and carries us to a place of comfort, wholeness and healing. He is there and He cares. He simply waits for us to come and ask.

Darkness and Light

I remember when Halloween wasn’t such a big deal. For all the fun of the holiday, it has a dark side. We need to remember to celebrate the light more than the darkness by lighting a candle of God’s love in our lives to shine to those around us. 

"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."--John 8:12 (KJV)

Season of Thanks

 Let the people thank you, God. Let all the people thank you. --Psalm 67:3 ISV

We teach our children to say "Please" and "Thank you." But, how many times do we use those terms ourselves when speaking to our Heavenly Father? Do we plead, complain and demand instead of asking and saying, "Please?" 

Do we think to say, "Thank you," when prayers are answered?
Do I foster an attitude of gratitude in my own life?

Help me, Lord, have a thankful heart...and give thanks to you for all you do, and who you are in my life.

Hiding Faith or Denying it

Come and listen, all of you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. --Psalm 66:16 ISV

Do we hide our faith, claiming it is private or do we share God's message of hope by telling others what He has done in us, for us, and through us?

Am I ashamed of being and living for Jesus? Isn't hiding my faith the same as denying it? How can I help others if I hide my light due to fear, embarrassment or a claim of being shy? 

Let me tell you what God has done for me....

Doesn't Change Positions

Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words won’t ever disappear. --Luke 21:33 ISV 

Many claim that the message of the Bible should change depending on current social and philosophical thought.

But the God of Scripture makes clear that however circumstances and time changes, God's Word, His principles and His promises do not. We can rely on what He said, because it is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Love Means Actions

“Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings.” Galatians 6:2 GW

Sometimes this means taking the time to write a note or make a phone call. Sometimes this means a visit or taking someone out. It always means not just saying, "I'll pray." but actually doing it. 

Bearing the burdens of others is not easy or simple and takes time and effort. Do I care enough about others to reach out of my insular world to help the hurting in real and effective ways?

So Hard to Trust

 People, in every situation put your trust in God; pour out your heart before him; for God is a refuge for us. --Psalm 62:8 ISV

Over and over the Scripture tells us God is our refuge. Why is it so hard to go first to Him when things go wrong in our lives? Instead we do everything we can to handle the situation before we go to Him. How different would results be if we trusted that God really does know what He's doing and wants to lead us beside still waters. 

God isn't Blind

He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? --Psalm 94:9 

How often do we do something we know is wrong and chuckle about it? It isn't a big deal. No one knows. Our persona of being a good person is intact. Others can't see into our minds or our hearts. No one saw what we did or thought. 

But our rationalizations go out the window when we acknowledge Someone does see and Someone does know--and our actions grieve Him. We cannot claim to follow Christ, then rationalize that making wrong choices is OK. Either we follow Him or we don't. Either way, He knows. 

If we truly believe God exists, He cares about us and is involved in our daily lives, then what we think, say and do matters. Our actions reveal the true state of our heart and what we really believe. God sees. The question becomes, do I care? Yes.

I'm glad God sees, because even at my lowest I know He cares. He'll forgive when I bow, reach out, stop playing games and follow Him. 

Not So Good at Waiting

You are my source of strength! I will wait for you! For God is my refuge. -- Psalm 59:9 NET

My problem is that while I recognize God is truly my strength, I still like to move on, make decisions without waiting for His answers, His guidance or His leading. I am impatient for the next step. Yet, without Him, I am going to make the wrong one. 

I need to remember to slow down, wait and remember He is my refuge and strength. I'm not going to get too far without Him and the results of my going ahead of His direction are never positive. 

So I will ask, listen, "discuss" a bit....and work at waiting. Gives me time to be thankful and count my blessings. When that leading comes, I'll be ready--heart and mind to move forward to find the blessings in store when I follow Him. 

The Choice to Love

God's love doesn't fail.
The question is is--does mine?
Is the evil I see
Really in my own heart
Because I don't want to 
Extend God's Love in one or another 
Given situation?
Do I allow God's love to prevail
And flow through me
Enriching the lives of
Myself
Spouse
Family
Friends
And more...
Do I chose to love?

Because of the LORD’s gracious love we are not consumed, since his compassions never end. They are new every morning— great is your faithfulness! --Lamentations 3:22-23 ISV 

Sustainer

Cast on the LORD whatever he sends your way, and he will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. --Psalm 55:22 ISV 

God is there even when we hurt, when we're confused and when we are angry.He sustains us when we're too exhausted, too hurting, too overwhelmed to deal with life on our own. When we rest in Him, He turns dark into light and guides us back to wholeness. 

WARMED

In the chill of the morning,
I open God’s Word... 
Read,
Meditate,
Commune with Him,
And know
The warmth of His
Presence
Within.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. --Lamentations 3:22-23 (NAS)

Does God Care?

(The Lord)
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. --Psalm 23:2-3

Sometimes we feel like we're in a howling storm or a desert all alone. We begin to wonder if God is there and, even more important, if He truly cares. Yet, Psalms 23 makes clear that while life's storms and desert times will come, they are not what God ultimately desires for us. 

If we trust and follow Him as sheep follow their shepherd, He will lead us through tumultuous and painful times to a place where He provides rest, comfort, healing and hope.

When I Don't Feel Like Praising

With a free will offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, LORD, because it is good, for he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eyes have seen the end of my enemies. --Psalm 54:6-7 ISV

We often thank God when things are going well or something extraordinary, and positive, happens in our lives. God is real and present in our lives, but it isn't all about fun and games. God often allows choices we make to bear fruit, allows natural consequences of nature or of other people's choices. 

During these times, it is easy to turn from God then and blame instead of praise. If we trust Him, we'll find Christ cares even in the most difficult circumstances and He is in the darkness. He will comfort, bring hope and peace....and direction if we trust, ask, listen and follow. 

But part of it all is finding things for which to give praise even in those dark times. Giving praise, even when we may not feel like it, changes everything--starting with our attitudes. 

What He Offers

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...."

When I put God first in my life, 
I have a guide I can follow and know He will not lead me in the wrong path.
I have a comforter to whom I can go when my heart is breaking.
I have a healer who touches my mind, heart and body and makes them whole.
I have a Savior who died and rose for me that I might have life,
And live forever in the presence of of His light and overwhelming love. 

Truly "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." Psalm 23:1

Obedience

   When he had finished speaking, he told Simon, “Push out into deep water, and lower your nets for a catch.” 
   Simon answered, “Master, we have worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll lower the nets.” 
   After the men had done this, they caught so many fish that the nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats until the boats began to sink. --Luke 5:4-7 ISV 

What struck me about this passage was Simon's willingness to obey. He was probably tired and frustrated over working hard with little return. Yet, Jesus asked him to do something and he was ready and willing to give it a try. 

I hear God speak through His Word and through prayer, but I drag my feet. I wonder if I really "heard" what I thought I heard. What God asks doesn't make sense--as it probably didn't to Simon. Yet, he obeyed immediately and was rewarded far beyond his imagination.

What blessings await me when I not only listen, but also follow where God leads--without complaining and hesitation?



Appreciation

We may not have control of the seasons, but we can appreciate them and thank the One who created the panorama of beauty He unfolds for each one. 

You are the one and only Lord. You made the heavens. You made even the highest heavens. You created all of the stars in the sky. You created the earth and everything that is on it. And you made the oceans and everything that is in them. You give life to everything. Every living being in heaven worships you. --Nehemiah 9:6 (NIRV)

“You are worthy, our Lord and God!
    You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power.
You are worthy because you created all things.
    They were created and they exist.
    That is the way you planned it.” --Revelation 4:11 (NIRV)

Forever

For this God is our God forever and ever. He will guide us until death. --Psalm 48:14 ISV 

God didn't just create and leave us. He's not some distant God who has no personal interest in His creation. He is real, intimate and personal. So many of us are lonely, but we don't have to be. God becomes personal in Jesus who offers peace, life, hope...and joy. He is as near as our willingness to trust and follow Him. 

But He respects my choices, because love is a choice. Why wouldn't I choose this loving God who is with me not just today, but also forever?

Telling Off the Surgeon

I will instruct you and teach you concerning the path you should walk; I will direct you with my eye. --Psalm 32:8 ISV 

Long ago when I first started my journey of joint replacements so I could walk again after spending my teen years in a wheelchair, God showed me this verse before that first surgery. My surgeon's nurse (a friend) was excited when I quoted it to her. I saw it as a verse for my surgeon (a friend and Christian brother.) The road to this first surgery was long and a hazardous for us both.  This was confirmation that this surgery (which was no guarantee) would be OK. 

Ruth told the team about the verse. Jerry, the anesthesiologist, asked about the verse and I quoted it to him. Once I got inside the operating room for that initial surgery, Dr. Ellis said, "I hear you have a verse for me." By the time he arrived, I'd had a shot or two that made me woozy and Jerry was trying to find a vein to start the IV.

I quoted the verse--or so I thought. Evidently I wasn't getting things quite right, including where the verse was found. What I remember was Jerry saying, "She's turning blue and I can't find a vein." 

As I was told later, that wasn't the end of the conversation. Dr. Ellis told me I wasn't quoting the verse right and I told him (he was church chairman at the time) that he didn't know his Bible. From then on, they made sure I was out before I entered the operating room. :). I did provide entertainment though.

However, that verse proved true. God did guide Ken's hands through that surgery and the many to follow. And, after ten years in a wheelchair, I did walk again. I learned that God is faithful even in the darkest of times. He does guide and direct if we're willing to follow. 

Playing Games with Sin 

Matthew 4:10-11 Mkjv Then Jesus said to him, Go, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve." Then the Devil left him. And behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Jesus told Satan to go. When we command in Jesus' name things happen. When temptation comes, unfortunately, too many times, we don't say, No!," don't walk away, shut down the TV, computer, phone and don't close the book or magazine.

Sin fascinates and we play games with sin, alowing this and that. We lose our spiritual discernment as sin becomes a barrier between us and God.

The scary thing is, by playing games with sin, we often never realize how far we moved from our source of protection, peace, hope and blessing until disaster strikes and we find ourselves wondering where God is.

How am I playing with sin today?

Human vs Animal Rights 

Matthew 12:12-13 Mkjv How much better is a man then than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then He said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored whole like the other.

We live in a time where being human is often denigrated while animal life is given human, even sacred status. God did not create humans and and animals equal. We are made in God's image. Animals are a creation not on the same level. We are to care for and use animals, but not
deliberately torture either animals or humans. Nevertheless, some animals are meant for comfort and assistance. Others for food and clothing.

Animals, as wonderful as they are, do not have souls. A perspective to keep in mind when animal rights are touted over the safety, health and well-being of a human population.

Mis-using God's Name 

Do I honor God when I misuse His name in casual conversation Oh, my G..." or think it is Ok to shorten the phrase for email and texting OMG? Do most even know that "G" followed by two "Es" is a shortened form of Jesus? 

It is not ok to misuse any of God's names. In fact, what we do so casually, even in certain Christian literature, God calls dishonoring and a direct violation of one of His commandments.

Do I show disrespect to the One I claim to follow by what I allow to flow from my mouth, my pen or allow to flow to my eyes and ears without it bothering me?

Psalm 29:2 Mkjv Give to the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

The Difference Christ Makes--Joy

Psalm 33:2-4 Mkjv Praise the LORD with lyre; sing to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with shouts of joy. For the Word of the LORD is right; and all His works are in truth.

Those who think they follow God when they persist in gloom and doom have missed an important key to Christianity. Christ is about love and hope and...JOY! Jesus came to bring joy. Joy because He saves us, joy because He gives us peace and hope and moment by moment fellowship with Him. He is about truth, but His truth brings us back to joy.

Christ isn't about guilt. Guilt should be from something done wrong and should lead us to repent and move on with gratitude and joy for a God who can and does forgive the repentant heart. Hanging on to grief and guilt means we're not allowing Christ to heal and set us free.

Joy comes from freedom of knowing Christ. God's Word is even more clear when Nehemiah 8:10 says,"The joy of the Lord is your strength."

Keys 

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 GW Israel, what does the LORD your God want you to do? He wants you to fear him, follow all his directions, love him, and worship him with all your heart and with all your soul. The LORD wants you to obey his commands and laws that I'm giving you today for your own good.

God wants a people committed to following Him? Why? Because He has a big ego and likes control? Not at all. Verse 13 provides the reason--for our good. God's laws, commands and principles were put into place by a loving Creator who gave us the keys for successful lives--for good lives. 

It is up to us to appropriate those keys of His protection, provision and peace by simply following the principles God set forth in His book for living--the Bible. It starts by accepting, loving and serving Him.

Ticket to Grace 

Luke 7:48-50 GW Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven." 
   The other guests thought, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?" 
   Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!"

Even today many fall into the trap of thinking they can somehow "earn" their way into God's favor. Usual methods: Church attendance, church rituals, good works.

But that has never been how Christianity works. It isn't about what we can do, other than admit we are too messed up to save ourselves. Christianity hinges on faith in God's grace, on His unmerited favor. Unmerited. We don't deserve God's mercy or blessing and when we're honest about who we are deep inside--we know that.

Jesus didn't die and rise for "good" people. He died for sinners--those who recognize what Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned." Only as sinners who admit our need and ask Christ to come in, will we find that golden ticket--forgiveness and hope through His amazing grace.

Environmentalism & God 

Deuteronomy 20:19-20 GW This is what you must do whenever you blockade a city for a long time in order to capture it in war. Don't harm any of its fruit trees with an ax. You can eat the fruit. Never cut those trees down, because the trees of the field are not people you have come to blockade. You may destroy trees that you know are not fruit trees. You may cut them down and use them in your blockade until you capture the city.

I care about the earth, though I don't buy into environmental extremism. Still, God wants us to take care of the world He created. I found it interesting that God did not want His people to use a
scorched earth policy when they were at war. He told them not to destroy fruit trees.

That was possible because the ultimate victory didn't come from military tactics, but from obeying, serving and following God.

In many ways, environmentalism has gotten out of hand and many worship nature rather than God. Others have taken over a movement meant for good to promote government control.

We need to respect God's creation, but never worship the creation more than the creator and never use environmentalism to take away God-given freedom. It is a balance that starts with putting God first in every area of life and letting Him direct the rest.

God First in Finances 

Proverbs 3:9-10 Mkjv Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; and your barns shall be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst with new wine.

We spend money on food, clothes and housing. We spend money, copious amounts of money, on entertainment and other luxuries. God promises blessing to those who put Him at the center of their lives and that means considering Him first in our finances. Yet how often do we give to God the left-overs of our time and money and still expect Him to bless?

We receive as we give. If God is number one, giving to Him that first ten percent isn't a suggestion, it should be our priority--even when we're concerned about finances. God first, in time, worship and finances takes the pressure off of me and puts it on Him. Do I trust God enought to give to Him before paying my other bills?

Waiting for us to ask 

Psalm 91:14-15 Mkjv Because He has set His love on Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set Him on high, because He has known My name. He shall call on Me, and I will answer Him; I will be with Him in trouble; I will deliver Him, and honor Him.

Why is it so hard to turn to God in our need...as though we can handle everything on our own? Who cares about us more than the One who created us and sustains the very world we live in? Without Him, we can do nothing. Why not work with Him, instead of ignoring Him, listening instead bungling through on our own?

God is here. He cares and when we ask Him for help, He becomes our protector, provider, opening the door to inner resources we never imagined. 

The Worrier 

Luke 12:25-27 GW Can any of you add an hour to your life by worrying? If you can't do a small thing like that, why worry about other things? Consider how the flowers grow. They never work or spin yarn for clothes. But I say that not even Solomon in all his majesty was dressed like one of these flowers.

Worry adds nothing to our lives, but does take away. Worry depletes our energy and resources, leaving us exhausted and anxious. Worry steals enjoyment of the present, making us always looking for bad things to happen. Worry causes health problems and short-circuits our peace. The foundation of worry is self-centered. It is deciding God isn't trustworthy and that it is all up to us. No wonder we worry!

Worry is not concern. It is not recognizing problems and dealing with them. Worry is that nebulous cycle of doom we think ourselves into and that may explode into inappropriate words or behavior.

Where is trust in the equation? To let go of worry, we need to consider Christ, who He is and His character. Is He more trustworthy that me who has very little control of much of life? Something to ponder.

Reason for the Cross 

Psalm 70:4 GW Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad because of you. Let those who love your salvation continually say, "God is great!"

We are not intrinsically good. Without Christ we are forever lost. If not, if we can somehow earn our way to grace, then 1) Christianity isn't much different from other religions all of which focus on humans reaching out to God, 2) Jesus died for no reason. If we can earn our own way, Jesus didn't need to die. Changes everything He claimed!

But we are lost and Jesus sacrificed Himself to change that situation and provide another way to life--through His sacrifice for us.

Luke 19:10 GW Indeed, the Son of Man has come to seek and to save people who are lost.

My part? Accept that sacrifice, admit my need and follow Him.

False gods
 
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 GW You must never sacrifice your sons or daughters by burning them alive, practice black magic, be a fortuneteller, witch, or sorcerer, cast spells, ask ghosts or spirits for help, or consult the dead. Whoever does these things is disgusting to the LORD. ...

We read this passage and then check out the movies we see like the Twight series, shows we watch and books we read. Too often, we've lost the pureness of our faith before Almighty God. Do we really believe God hates sin to the point of allowing negative consequences into our lives or do we rationalize God doesn't mean what He says in scripture and will wink at our entertainment choices?

Only God can save, help and comfort. In a crisis, god-like recreations will crmble and fade. Is my god the God of the Bible or do I recreate a god in a comfortable--but false--idol image to fit my lifestyle choices?

Seeking Good Always 

Luke 22:51 GW But Jesus said, "Stop! That's enough of this." Then he touched the servant's ear and healed him.

Even during one of His worst moments--after His agonized prayer in the garden and as He was being arrested--Jesus focused not on Himself, but on others. Even in that moment He did good rather than evil to an enemy. He healed. No anger. No revenge. His trust in His Father gave Him confidence in His purpose--sacrificing Himself for you and me.

Do we come to our trials with a quiet confidence in Him--always seeking good and not evil? Easy to claim. Not easy to do.

Do I trust God, no matter what? Without dwelling on the hurt, pain--or revenge?

Ultimate Good 

Psalm 31:24 HW Be strong, all who wait with hope for the LORD, and let your heart be courageous.

Sometimes the day just goes bad. Frustrating things happen, bad news received, stress increases. These are times to first pray, not just shallow prayers, but sharing the anguish of heart and mind with the One who not only loves you best, but the One who can actually do something about the situation. 

Second, read God's Word for comfort, strength and direction. 
Third, thank God and begin to count your blessings--even small minor ones.

God takes our prayers and praise and turns things around for our ultimate good.

Hope 

Psalm 71:5 GW You are my hope, O Almighty LORD. You have been my confidence ever since I was young.

It is all about hope. Hope keeps us hanging on long after we should have given up. Hope keeps us going when others tell us to quit. Hope helps us perservere through the hardships to the other side. Hope not only walks beside us, but pulls us forward with "hope" of something better on the other side.

Without God, we do not have hope for He is the One who put hope into our hearts.

Heart of Caring 

Deuteronomy 26:12 GW Every third year is the year when you will store a tenth of that year's crops in your houses. During that year distribute what you have stored to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows in your cities, and they may eat all they want.

Many of us know at least a tenth of what we earn goes to the Lord's work. What I've never seen before is the clarity of where such a tenth should go. God is a God who cares about those in need. As individuals and churches, we need to make sure to donate generously to those in real need. We don't need a new tool box or a new jacket as much as someone else needs unpoluted water, food and clothes.

Generosity should be one of the marks of a Christ-follower.

Counting the Cost 

Luke 14:27 GW So those who do not carry their crosses and follow me cannot be my disciples.

How often do we know of those who, when hard times or tragedy strikes, turn away from God? Especially in America, we've made Christianity a "now everything will be great" religion. Those who "believe" actually believe not in the Christ who promised hard times and difficulties, not in a false God of perfect prosperity and no problems. 

It comes from not really getting to know Christ through mutual communication and regular--and thorough--study of His Word. It comes from relying on human words rather than God's, allowing us to create our own and totally ineffective religion.

Jesus doesn't promise an easy life. He promises that if we give our lives totally to Him, satan will do everything possible to hurt and mess up our lives and relationships. What Jesus does promise is His guidance, comfort, strength, peace and hope--no matter what.

What Jesus asks is for us to count the cost of descipleship. Have I?

Remember 

Exodus 12:14 And this day shall be a memorial to you. And you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by a law forever.   

When we get discouraged, we need to deliberately and consciously remember God's blessings in our lives and relationships. Remembering is a good way to keep from being discouraged, and to keep our faith vibrant. Remember what is good and positive. Remember answered prayer. Remember!    

Psalm 70:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance. Make haste , O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O LORD.  

Better With God

Psalm 68:19 MKJV Blessed is the LORD; He daily bears burdens for us, the God of our salvation. Selah.  

Why do I hang onto my pain and problems when God will bear them for me? He tells us He is there, He cares and He wants us to come to Him when we are burdened. In trying to handle my life on my own, I end up alone with no one to share my hurts, problems and frustration. Not allowing His input also separates me from the One who not only created me, but who also loves me best. 

At least with Jesus I have Someone to talk with (even question and share my frustrations). I can go to God's Word and find comfort, peace and guidance. Things really do go better with God. 

Promises For Today—Or Tomorrow

Exodus 9:35 And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the sons of Israel go, even as the LORD had spoken by Moses.   

After miraculous plagues that awed even his own wise-men, Pharaoh refused to listen or keep his word once the status quo was restored. Are we much different? Do we make promises to God in the midst of pain and problems we never follow-up on? Is it any wonder that it takes a major tragedy to get not just get our attention, but also touch our hearts for more than a moment? 

What does it take for me to not just listen, but also make long-term changes in my life--a still small voice or disaster?

Psalm 67:18-20 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear; Surely God has heard; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed is God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me.   

II John 1:6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.   

Discerning Truth

I John 4:1-2 GW Dear friends, don't believe all people who say that they have the Spirit. Instead, test them. See whether the spirit they have is from God, because there are many false  prophets in the world. This is how you can recognize God's Spirit: Every person who declares that Jesus Christ has come as a human has the Spirit that is from God.  

Just because something sounds good doesn't mean it's true. We need to be more discerning. How? By knowing truth. Jesus IS truth. The more we know Jesus and the more we know His Word, the more we'll discern truth from manipulation and falsehood. 

Help me know You and Your Word, Jesus, that I might know truth from error in all facets of life.

I John 5:1-3 BBE Everyone who has faith that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God: and everyone who has love for the Father has love for his child. In this way, we are certain that we have love for the children of God, when we have love for God and keep his laws. For loving God is keeping his laws: and his laws are not hard.   

How to Drown Out Satan's Discouraging Words

Exodus 5:23 For from the time when I came to Pharaoh to put your words before him, he has done evil to this people, and you have given them no help.   

When God moves, Satan pushes back HARD. He'll try to discourage us, make us feel sorry for ourselves, fill our time and minds with distractions and try to get us to blame God for whatever problems come our way—even those we create for ourselves. Satan is manipulative, but God is not silent. Opposition or pain doesn't mean God isn't moving or working on our behalf.

What is our response? Psalm 63:3-4 Because your mercy is better than life, my lips will give you praise. So will I go on blessing you all my life, lifting up my hands in your name.   

Praising God gets our attitude focused in the right direction. Listening to and following His guidance-- through prayer and immersion in God's Word--keeps us heading up the right path. 

I John 2:28 And now, my children, keep your hearts in him; so that at his revelation, we may have no fear or shame before him at his coming. 

Courage to Share

II Peter 3:13 But having faith in his word, we are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, which will be the resting-place of righteousness.   

Am I truly looking forward to heaven? Not yet. Why? Because I have family and friends don't know Christ. If sharing God's message of salvation is critical, what am I doing about the situation? Am I letting fear and pride or lack of self-confidence keep me from being a light-bearer of the message of grace? 

Help me, Jesus, share your message. Guide me and give me courage.

1 John 1:7 But if we are walking in the light, as he is in the light, we are all united with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son makes us clean from all sin.  

Better With Him

Psalm 60:12a Through God we will do great things,  

If we can do much on our own, think how much more we can in tandem with the Creator & Sustainer of the universe? My problem--am I willing to ask for help, willing to listen for direction, willing to wait for His guidance, willing to follow when He speaks?

Lord, help me have a willing heart.

II Peter 2:9a The Lord is able to keep the upright safe in the time of testing,... 

Not Done Yet

When we bake, this is what we say after testing the cookies and finding they are not ready to take out of the oven. The oven applies heat to the mix in order to turn it into something delicious to eat. We're like that as well. God never promised an easy life. He makes it clear our lives here will be filled with hardship, frustration and pain, because that is all part our fallen world. He also promised peace, hope and love as well as life everlasting when we allow him access into the very center of our lives.

Christians aren't perfect and many of us make horrible mistakes. We sin. We fall down. We say and do things that shame us and our Lord. The difference is, we can go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. We can ask Him to lead us and show us how to love instead of hate, lift up and not tear down. 

We are human beings, with all the potential for good and bad that brings. As we allow Jesus in, He changes us from the inside out. But the process isn't finished. God doesn't give up on you or me and we shouldn't either. We need to realize we aren't perfect and neither is anyone else. We need to be quick to extend love and forgiveness, even while seeking to put God first in every area of our lives. 

Philippians 1:6 NHEB "being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Foundation and Courage

Exodus 1:16-17 When you are looking after the Hebrew women in childbirth, if it is a son you are to put him to death; but if it is a daughter, she may go on living. But the women had the fear of God, and did not do as the king of Egypt said, but let the male children go on living.   

These women were brave enough to stand against pharaoh, knowing he might not only kill them but also their families. This is courage that comes from a solid foundation, of knowing who you are in God. 

Situational ethics will never provide the foundation of courage to even know what is right, much less do right--no matter what.

Help me Jesus be like these women, doing right because You are my foundations and center. Amen.

Exodus 1:20-21 And the blessing of God was on these women: and the people were increased in number and became very strong. And because the women who took care of the Hebrew mothers had the fear of God, he gave them families.  

Listening, Learning Spirit 

I Peter 5:5 BEE And in the same way, let the younger men be ruled by the older ones. Let all of you put away pride and make yourselves ready to be servants: for God is a hater of pride, but he gives grace to those who make themselves low.   

Independence is our watch-word, yet independence often causes us to miss out on relationships and knowledge that would make our lives, or just a task or situation, easier,. How/why? Because someone else has already "been there, done that," they can help us move on and not continue to "invent the wheel" over and over again.

God understands. To be our best, we need to learn to acknowledge , respect and glean wisdom from those with more knowledge, wisdom, faith and/or years. Arrogance is a trap that keeps us from becoming all we can be in every area of our lives.

Help me, Jesus, to listen and learn, recognizing I don't know it all. Amen.

I Peter 5:6-7 For this cause make yourselves low under the strong hand of God, so that when the time comes you may be lifted up; Putting all your troubles on him, for he takes care of you.   

No Matter What

Psalm 56:3-4 BBE In the time of my fear, I will have faith in you. In God will I give praise to his word; in God have I put my hope; I will have no fear of what flesh may do to me.   

This is where the rubber meets the road. When do I trust God? When things are good? When I have no other options? Or--do I trust God no matter what--when things are fine (and when I think I really could figure it all out without guidance) as well as when things are desperate (when I could blame God for causing me to go through hard things).

Help me trust You, Jesus, in good times & bad. Amen.

Psalm 56:11 In God have I put my hope, I will have no fear of what man may do to me.  

Whining

I Peter 3:9-11 BBE  Not giving back evil for evil, or curse for curse, but in place of cursing, blessing; because this is the purpose of God for you that you may have a heritage of blessing.  For it is said, Let the man who has a love of life, desiring to see good days, keep his tongue from evil and his lips from words of deceit:   And let him be turned from evil and do good; searching for peace and going after it with all his heart.   

When frustration comes and I'm tempted to complain I am reminded that whining serves no positive purpose. How much better to bless and praise, than curse and complain. Sure makes for a better attitude and fewer headaches, physically as well as emotionally.

Psalm 55:22 Put your cares on the Lord, and he will be your support; he will not let the upright man be moved. 

Special in His Eyes

I Peter 2:4 To whom you come, as to a living stone, not honoured by men, but of great and special value to God;   

The amazing thing is that we are valued by God. Not simply as slaves to do His bidding, but as loved friends with whom Jesus seeks to communicate. Wow! Someone greater than the highest paid celebrity, someone greater than the president, seeks friendship with ME. How can I not want such a relationship? How can I not do all I can to facilitate such a relationship? 

Talk about the ultimate ticket-fixer. God offers a relationship, not just here and now, but for eternity. 

Psalm 54:6 Freely will I make my offerings to you; I will give praise to your name, O Lord, for it is good.   

The Value of My Integrity

Genesis 39:10-12 BBE And day after day she went on requesting Joseph to come to her and be her lover, but he would not give ear to her. Now one day he went into the house to do his work; and not one of the men of the house was inside. And pulling at his coat, she said, Come to my bed; but slipping out of his coat, he went running away.   

Here was a man of authority who could have given in to the "pleasures of sin for a season." Maybe he would not have found out. Situation ethics might say that as a slave he needed to obey or that it was ok because they were consenting adults or that one would be hurt if he didn't give in.

Joseph knew better. He served a higher standard, one that acknowledged that "The man who has knowledge of how to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." Adultery certainly qualifies. Joseph would have not only betrayed his master who trusted him, but God who saw his true heart. His decision seemed to get him into a worse situation, but still Joseph kept faith. And he was, eventually, abundantly rewarded for staying true to his God by keeping his integrity intact. 

Do I only give lip service to God's standards as I rationalize my choices or do I truly seek--even in hard times--to make Godly choices of integrity, honor and truth?

Mine and His
His message,
My words.
His Spirit,
My Voice.
His Prompting,
My choice.
Making a difference by...
Allowing Christ's love and hope and peace,
To shine through me. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 NKJV

Faith and Actions Go Together

James 2:14 BBE What use is it, my brothers, for a man to say that he has faith, if he does nothing? will such a faith give him salvation?   

Actions must result from faith, or a proclaimed faith isn't really faith at all. If someone says they believe in God, but lives like the Devil, what they say has no meaning and their faith is a farce. Faith encompasses not just what we SAY we believe, but also what we DO and how we act. We judge someone's true belief system by their actions. What do my actions show?

James 2:15-17 If a brother or a sister is without clothing and in need of the day's food, And one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warm and full of food; but you do not give them the things of which their bodies have need, what profit is there in this? Even so faith without works is dead.

Hope 

Let it be all joy to you, my brothers, when you undergo tests of every sort; Because you have the knowledge that the testing of your faith gives you the power of going on in hope;   James 1:2-3 BBE

Hope doesn't come from everything being easy. Hope actually comes from going through hard situations while clinging to "something within" that helps us look toward the light at the end of the tunnel. The "something" is actually Someone. For our real foundation of hope, our light, is Christ--our Lord, our peace, our life. 

When Envy Turns to Hate

Genesis 37:24-25 And they took him and threw him into a pit. And the pit was empty, with no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread. ...

The results of hatred and unchecked jealousy is callousness and a hardness of mind and heart. Joseph's brothers lost the connection with their humanity to the point of murder. Gone the realization that he was their brother and just a teen. 

Jealousy unbridled is death to our souls and reaches out to hurt others. Have I allowed jealousy or envy to take over my thoughts? I cannot serve God if anger reigns inside over unresolved issues. Even on the cross, Jesus forgave. Are we willing to let go, fill our hearts with the good, let go the bad and forgive.  Are we willing to move on and be happy when others succeed?

Be Still

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God! I will be praised among the nations, I will be praised in the earth.   

Be still. Two words. Very difficult for me. My mind races, far out pacing my physical limitations. I seek to keep mentally occupied. Yet that very activity often keeps me from contemplation, from slowing down long enough to listen.

I need to purposely give God's Spirit a quiet time to speak, to guide. I need to schedule time to be still and be refreshed in God's Word, in prayer and do it all with a listening willing heart.

Be still isn't about pressure to perform. It is about communicating, even in silence, with the creator that both body and mind might be whole.

Be still and listen. 

Power of the Word

Hebrews 11:3 NKJV By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Over and over Scripture uses the refrain or something similar WORD OF GOD. Jesus created everything just by speaking it. Words are powerful, even ours. What we speak lifts up or destroys. We need--I need--to choose carefully not only my words, but also the attitude and tone of delivery.

What a difference for our culture/our world if we practiced self-control of speech and taught our children the same.

Joy

Psalm 42:8, 11 But the Lord will send his mercy in the daytime, and in the night his song will be with me, a prayer to the God of my life. ...Why are you crushed down, O my soul? and why are you troubled in me? put your hope in God; for I will again give him praise who is my help and my God.   

Even when things go all wrong, there is joy at the oddest of times from a word of encouragement, a beautiful sunset, a quote, etc. that lifts the heart and confirms that there God still extends faith and hope and love. TY Jesus for the joy inside only You can give. 

Blessings and Reaching Out 

There is a direct correlation between how we treat others and God's protection and deliverance in our time of need. Our horizontal relations with others has a direct bearing on our vertical relationship with God. We can't ignore those in need and expect God to hear us and respond to our needs.

We are God's hands to those around us. Definitely something to consider and heed.

Psalm 41:1 Blessed is he who acts wisely toward the poor; the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.   

Hot House Plants

Hebrews 5:8 though being a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.   

We've created a whole culture around eliminating problems. We try so hard to smooth the path for ourselves and our children. Is it any wonder that when hard times/circumstances happen we are incapable of dealing with them? 

A plant grows the strongest roots not when in a hot house, but when grown outside where it will be buffeted by the elements. Character is revealed not in the good times, but in times of adversity. However, it is vital to build a solid foundation of faith by learning God's Word and growing close to Him. Then, when suffering comes, we can stand strong in the power of Christ in us.

Psalm 40:1b-3a...I waited patiently for the LORD; and He bowed down to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a rock, and gave sureness to my steps.  And He has put a new song in my mouth, praise to our God; ...

Why?

Psalm 38:15 For in You, O LORD, do I hope; You will hear, O LORD my God.   

No matter what God is there. He keeps his word, both for blessing when we follow Him and for consequences when we turn our backs on His way. He sees. He knows. We cannot "get one over" on Him. Still, He cares, loves us no matter what and seeks to draw us to Himself. 

Why do we so often fight Him when we know He offers a life of forgiveness, light and hope?

Holding it Together

When our lives are falling apart, we need to turn to God's Word. Hebrews 1:3 Who being the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the word of His power, through Himself cleansing of our sins, He sat down on the right of the Majesty on high,   

When we take Christ lightly, we miss this truth--everything, EVERYTHING in our world is held together by His  powerful WORDS. He says and it is so. 

Words have power for good or evil, both in the physical and the spiritual realm. That is why filling ourselves with God's Word brings light, life, security and hope. If God holds the world together, will not His Words change us as well, if we read, heed and take them seriously in our lives?

When He speaks through His Word, I need to listen...and follow. I know, when I follow Him, God holds my life together as well. 

Living Fiercely--God's Way

Interesting that in our culture where we're so careful to not hurt anyone's feelings, the Psalmist minced no words. He did not always pray for peace for those he knew were his enemies and enemies of God.

We need to have the strength of character to speak what is right, pray fiercely and live righteously without apology and without crumbling under the onslaught of criticism that will surely come.

(Read the entire Psalm for the whole context.) Psalm 35: 19-27a NKJV Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies; Nor let them wink with the eye who hate me without a cause. For they do not speak peace, But they devise deceitful matters Against the quiet ones in the land. They also opened their mouth wide against me, And said, "Aha, aha! Our eyes have seen it."

This You have seen, O Lord; Do not keep silence. O Lord, do not be far from me. Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication, To my cause, my God and my Lord. Vindicate me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness; And let them not rejoice over me. Let them not say in their hearts, "Ah, so we would have it!" Let them not say, "We have swallowed him up."

Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion Who rejoice at my hurt; Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor Who exalt themselves against me. Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous cause; ...

Not About Me

Titus 2:12 GW It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world. 

How should we live? Not self-absorbed or for our own pleasure. We should live to the highest of ideals of behavior, and according to God's principles, which we can only do if we read, study and follow His written Word and have a real relationship with Him. 

Anything less than a relationship is dead, duty religion where everything centers around ME rather than around HE who loves, forgives and sets us free in Him.

How freeing to know it's not up to me, not about me, and not about a set of either rules or good works.

Titus 2:13-14 MKJV looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to Himself a special people, zealous of good works.  

God's Timing

Genesis 16:3-4 And Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her slave woman, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife (after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan). And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.  

Never wise to, in impatience, supplant God's plans with our own. Doing so always leads to problems and heartache. Sarah and Abraham's choice has led to continual suffering for God's people throughout the years because these offspring of Hagar's oppose Israel to this day.

Better to ask God for His direction, then do thing His way that includes waiting for His timing.

A Culture of Cheating

And if a man takes part in a competition he does not get the crown if he has not kept the rules.  II Timothy 2:5 BBE  

Integrity seems to be a thing of the past. Everyone demands it, but few actually live it. We're a nation, a culture of cheaters--a direct result of a couple of generations who have been taught there is no foundational truth and that truth is whatever each conceives it to be. No truth, no responsibility to God and we have a culture that is self-absorbed and will do anything, including cheating in school, on tests and taxes, in relationships and in life. 

In the end we cheat ourselves of the very things we desire most: satisfaction, love, affirmation, those who truly care, and the ability to know we've lived a life of worth before God and man.  

Where do I "cheat" in life?

But take no part in wrong and foolish talk, for those who do so will go farther into evil, And their words will be like poisoned wounds in the flesh: … II Timothy 2:16-17a BBE 
  
Psalm 33:4-5, 12 MKJV For the Word of the LORD is right; and all His works are in truth.  He loves righteousness and judgment; the earth is full of the mercy of the LORD...Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; the people He has chosen for His inheritance.   

Peace and War and Knowing the Difference

Genesis 13:8-9 And Abram said to Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are men, brothers. Is not the whole land before you? I pray you, separate yourself from me. If you go to the left, then I will go to the right. Or if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.   

Though Abraham had the right to choose, he did not lord his authority over his nephew. Essentially he was a man of peace, though he learned to fight when necessary. Abraham sought peaceful solutions until it became obvious only force would work 

Genesis 14:15-16 And he divided himself against them by night, he and his servants. And he struck them, and pursued them to Hobah, which is on the left of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, and the women also, and the people.   

Do I seek peace and pursue it, but am I also ready to fight when it is right? What does that mean to me today? It means seeking God's will through His Word and prayer, listening to His voice, which I can only do when I live close to Him and acting on His direction—not by my natural instincts of reacting out of anger or for revenge. 

II Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.   

His Essence

Certainly, we work hard and struggle to live a godly life, because we place our confidence in the living God. He is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.  I Timothy. 4:10 GW
 
Christ doesn't just teach about life, truth, hope, joy and peace. He is their essence. Without Him they don't exist, but, then, without Him the world doesn't exist. This God deserves my worship. That's why "I have hidden Your word in my heart, so that I might not sin against You." Ps 119:11 MKJV   

I'm glad that when everything seems to be spinning out of my control, God isn't taken by surprised. With His guiding hand I can know His "essence" --the very things I crave: life, truth, hope, joy and peace.

Politics

I Timothy. 2:1-4 MKJV First of all, then, I exhort that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Sometimes we don't much like what those sworn to represent us do--especially during a political campaign. But that doesn't get us off the hook. We're commanded to uohold our leaders in prayer, asking God to guide them both to Him and to good and right decisions. 

Of course, our part is to check out those running, and vote for those who are men/women of integrity, honor and who listen to those they represent as they seek not what is politically expedient, but what is true and right.

Sometimes only hard homework and prayer can lead us to the best candidates. But our involvement doesn't stop with a quick prayer for safety for the representative, for the family and for wisdom in the decisions that need to be made. 

We must pray, then stay involved, letting our representatives know how we feel on issues, doing our own homework in the process. 
It means letting them know, in a polite fashion, when we feel they let us down.
It also means showing gratitude when they do stand up for what is good and right.   

The result of prayer and active citizens is exactly what we desire ...so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.   

For a free society to remain free, we must be involved, informed, and prayful. There's no time like the present to start.

The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace.   Psalm 29:11

Checking My Motives

Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; purify my heart and my mind.   

Most of the time, we'd rather no one check our motives too closely. The Psalmist was different. He knew how easy it was to go off his own way. He gave God permission to keep him accountable to make sure that what he thought and did matched God's nature, not His own fallen one.

Why? V.3 For Your loving-kindness is before my eyes; and I have walked in Your truth. Because he knew right living and right actions toward himself and others stems from a loving Heavenly Father. We become more caring and loving the closer we are to God, because that is His nature. 

It's scary to give anyone, even God this kind of access. But worth it. “Please search my heart, Lord, guiding me to be all I can be in You. Amen.”

II Thessalonians 3:5 And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ.  

Humility

Psalm 25:4-5 Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth, and teach me; for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day long.

David had such an attitude of humility. He was a great and wise king, but instead of thinking he was "all that," he sought to know God. Though he could have gotten arrogant thinking he was "somebody," he remained repentant and teachable.

Lord, help me have this attitude of humility, recognizing I truly have and own nothing. Everything comes ultimately from you and I am the manager of what you've given me. Help me be a wise manager. Amen.

Psalm 25:9-10 The meek He will guide in judgment; and the meek He will teach His way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.


Armor of Faith, Hope, Love

I Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be serious, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and on our heads, the hope of salvation. BBE

We are not to be caught without the armor God provides--faith, hope and love. These protect the head and the heart from those things meant to destroy us, even from things we might think "aren't so bad," things that temporarily make us happy, but that ultimately separate us from God.

As we arm ourselves with God'd Word and as we regularly commune with Jesus, we come to know truth, satisfaction, hope...and lasting joy. We also have a desire to share Jesus that others might also know hope and love in Him.

I Thessalonians 5:9, 11 For God's purpose for us is not wrath, but salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,...So then, go on comforting and building up one another, as you have been doing.


Tree of Life

Genesis 2:9 And out of the earth the Lord made every tree to come, delighting the eye and good for food; and in the middle of the garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We don't much hear that there were two, not one, special trees. Adam & Eve were not immortal. The fruit of the tree of life evidently was not forbidden. They were only forbidden the fruit from the tree of good & evil, something in their environment to challenge their trust and obedience. They failed. They lost the garden so they would no longer have access to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:22-23)

Jesus is our tree of life, who is accessible at any time. Life is not a place or thing, but a person who desires a personal relationship with us. Adam and Eve were able walk and talk with God. Their sin separated humankind from that direct relationship. However, Jesus died and rose again to restore that personal relationship—that's Easter!.

We don't need a tree of fruit to know Christ. All we need is a willingness to ask Him to take center stage in our lives. The question is—do we want an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe? He's always here. In gratitude, I bow and follow. 

When Things Are Bad

1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 We sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the good news of Christ, to give you strength and comfort in your faith; So that no man might be moved by these troubles; because you see that these things are part of God's purpose for us.

We don't like problems or detours. We tend to see difficulties in our lives in a negative light. Paul saw everything through a different prism--through eyes of faith. He knew that even in the many awful things that happened to him as he shared his faith throughout the then-known world, God was still in control of the ultimate outcome.

God knows and directs our lives in ways we cannot even imagine. While He doesn't create evil in our lives, he will use our bad choices and negative situations to help us learn to trust Him and will bring good even out of the worst difficulties—when we lean on Him.

If we trust in Him when things seem rotten as well as when we feel "blessed," we'll know the power of His presence in our lives and the fruit of His presence in His provision, protection and peace.

Matter of Trust

Psalm 20: 7-8 (BBE) Some put their faith in carriages and some in horses; but we will be strong in the name of the Lord our God. They are bent down and made low; but we have been lifted up.

We don't have to hang our heads in fear or embarrassment. We follow the great "I am." We don't need to trust in circumstances or physical safety precautions or our own defenses (not to say we shouldn't be prudent). But we do need to make sure our trust is in the right place.

If we place our ultimate trust in Jesus, He will guide, direct and fight for us. Do I trust Him in the tough times? It's a matter of trust.

He Is...

God does not leave us hanging. 
In the darkest night, 
He is there. 
He is light, 
Protector, 
Deliverer. 
No one else cares this much. 
No one else offers life... 
Both now 
And for eternity?

Psalm 18:28-30 For You will light my candle; 
the LORD my God will make my darkness light. 
For by You I have run through a troop; 
and by my God I have leaped over a wall. 
As for God, His way is perfect; 
the Word of the LORD is tried; 
He is a shield to all those who trust in Him.  

Rejoice

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice!

This doesn't say wait until I feel like it or when I'm celebrating something good or when I feel "blessed." the verse simply says rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord when you're late for work, when kids are sick, when payment is due and the checking account is empty.

Our words change things. As we spend time praising and thanking God for who He is and for the many blessings in our lives past and present, at the very least, we undergo an attitude adjustment where we can let go the stress of a situation and focus on faith and both practical and spiritual solutions.

Rejoicing always is more than an action. It is a choice in how to live life. Positive people are healthier people physically, emotionally and spiritually. While I often struggle with this concept, I know I want to lift up what is good. I can do that not with complaints but with praise and by focusing on good things.

Phil. 4:8 Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things.


Following God Doesn't Equal No Problems

Phil.1:29 For to you it is given on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake,   

This is the part we don't like, especially in America where we believe blessing is synonymous for no problems. It isn't.

If we follow Christ, Satan and his evil hoards will seek to discourage us and try to stop us from knowing God intimately, using circumstances and attacks both subtle and direct—from family, friends, media and more. We stay close to God through prayer & the study of His Word. If we choose to follow, even in the worst of circumstances, we can know God's comfort, strength, guidance, protection and   provision.

The question is, are we ready for the battle? Is our commitment about as shallow as many marriage commitments today or are we in this for the long haul, knowing only in Christ will we find life, light, peace, hope and true joy? 

A Place of Strength 

There is only one true way to a position of strength and that is to operate not in our finite resources--physically, mentally, or emtionally--but in the infinite strength we can have in Jesus. In ourselves we are weak. But when we chose to serve Him, we live, not by our own strength and resources, but in His. True strength isn't physical or emotional, it is spiritual.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.   

Help me lean on Your strength today, Jesus. Amen.

Justice Vs Vengeance

Psalm 7:16 His mischief shall return on his own head, and his violence shall come on his own crown.   

Those who do evil will find themselves in hot water. We often think if we don't "get" those who harm us or those we love, no one will. Truth is, their own choices will bring their house of cards tumbling down around them. Vengeance belongs to God, not us.

What is our part? Pray for justice, not vengeance—wherever that leads—and not assume we know what that is or means. 

Grace

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 

This is a commonly quoted passage, and we may miss the depth. Salvation is a gift. 

We cannot ante up, clean up, do anything to win grace or heaven other than to say "I will follow Jesus." Nothing we do adds one thing to our elgibility--accept choose to believe. 

Service doesn't give us life; it is merely a "thank you" for God's amazing grace toward us.

Grace is a choice. Do I chose Christ?

The Privilege of Worship

Psalm. 5:7 But I, in the abundance of Your grace, I will come into Your house; I will worship in Your fear toward Your holy temple.   

Lord, help me 
not take You or worship lightly, 
to be thankful I can still worship
without fear of a prison sentence.
Help me be reverent, 
recognizing my need 
and Your greatness of mercy 
toward me and mine,
and worship in gratitude.
Amen

Ps. 5:11-12 But let all who put their trust in You rejoice; let them always shout for joy, because You defend them. And let those who love Your name be joyful in You. For You; O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield.   

Secure in Him
(c) 2012 Carolyn R Scheidies

Ps 3:5 I laid down and slept. I awoke, for the LORD kept me.   

I can sleep, 
fully trusting God's protecting, keeping hand 
upon me and mine 
as I ask Him in,
as I follow Him, 
He provides
rest and hope and peace.
What better reasons 
for serving Jesus?

Ps 3:8 Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is on Your people. Selah.   

Purity of the Heart

What we put into our minds does affect us, changes our perceptions and either brings us closer to God or erects barriers between us. There is no neutral ground. 

If we continue to put perverse images in our minds, of acts and behaviors contrary to God's righteousnes purity, we polute our minds and hearts. Those images continue to play in our minds, dredging up desires contrary to God's best at any given time.

Purity is more than guarding our bodies; it begins with guarding what goes into our minds. Sin begins with a choice, an arrogance that what effects others negatively will not effect me. Purity is a continual process of wisely choosing what I think about, what I read and watch and words I speak. Do they reflect God's goodness and purity?

Phil. 4:8 Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things.   

The Truth about Tolerance

Romans 12:17-21 GW Don't pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you. Focus your thoughts on those things that are considered noble. As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone. Don't take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God's anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, "I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord." But, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will make him feel guilty and ashamed." Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good.

God has something to say about how we treat others. While we live in a culture that talks a lot about tolerance, such so-called tolerance is usually extended only to those with a similar world-view. Opposing points of view are not allowed, not welcomed and, often, completely shut down. This is especially true if that opposing position is faith or conservative based.

Media is anything but tolerant of others. Those who end up with their own shows are those who are all about anger, revenge and pay-back. And people watch these "stars" destroy themselves and others over what? Fame, money? How sad. 

God's way is different. His is the true way of tolerance. Fight wrong, but love the one who is doing wrong. While it is easy to confuse this principle, we are not to hate people. We can dislike what someone stands for, while still praying God will show His truth and while we treat the person with kindness. 

God Doesn't Lie

Numbers 23:19 KJV God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?   

God does not lie. God promises total forgiveness through Jesus' when we ask. Why do we then so often try to beat ourselves up and drag along baggage in our lives, Jesus wants to or has already forgotten?

How much better to accept His gift of forgiveness, trust what He says and choose to move on to freedom. At that point, it is a choice. We don't move on because we can't, but because we choose bondage over the freedom of forgiveness.

I goof up, Lord. Sometimes pretty bad. I've hurt others as well as myself. I feel guilty. Help me, Jesus, to not only come to You for forgiveness, but also to accept Your forgiveness and move on to freedom. Amen.

Value of Life

Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.

In the womb, we are not just "blobs of tissue," but special creations of a loving, caring Heavenly Father. As His followers, do we treat that life with respect as well? Devaluing life before birth has led to the devaluing of life after birth. 

Destroying life, either actively or passively, makes us less as individuals and as a people. Human life is precious, has intrinsic value and is worth loving and caring for. How can we allow even one precious life to be callously snuffed out for the sake of convenience?

Praying God's Word

Romans 1:16-17 NKJV For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Scripture isn't just for reading and memorization. Also use it as the basis of your prayers. 

Help me, Jesus, not to be ashamed to share Your Word and message with my family and friends. Help me truly realize that Your message is so powerful, that all who believe in You will be saved no matter who they are. Your righteousness is revealed through Your word. Help us live a life of righteousness and faith in you. 

Thank you for loving me enough to send Your Word into my life to being me hope and salvation. Amen.


Using God's Word to pray encourages and lifts up.

Foundation of Truth

Isaiah 40:8  NKJV The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

The Bible isn't just a bunch of stories or principles to help us be successful in life, the Scriptures are God's Words, God's message to His creation. His words are life for all who read and take them seriously, because God's Word brings us to the cross and the need for us to accept or reject our Savior. 

Everything in the world changes, but God's Word doesn't change. It doesn't need to because the words in the Bible are God's eternal message to humankind. 

Which do we rely on, the words of leaders, politicians, business moguls? The words of so-called prophets, philosophers or writers? Or do we found our thoughts, lives and actions on the secure and unchanging Word of God? Which words will hold up when we have needs and questions or our lives fall apart?

Act of the Will

Acts 2:21 GW Then whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

We humans are very good at coming up with alternate plans. We like doing things our way and try to find easier, more comfortable and convenient paths to success. 

We first forget that "All have sinned" and that if humans were basically good, Jesus didn't need to enter our world, suffer, die and rise again.  We are not intrinsically good, we do wrong when we should right. We are sinners in need of help, forgiveness and hope. That's what Jesus offers. What He did wasn't easy or comfortable or convenient.

In our pain, He lifts up, lights the way. We cannot work our way into His favor, because salvation is a gift from a loving Savior. That gift isn't something we can buy with our own efforts.

We do have an important part to play--just one. We must choose to accept God's gift. We do so by calling on His name and asking Him into our lives.

Doing things His way is the most difficult of things to do. Is my future worth trusting Him?

Attitude

Psalm 86:11 ISV Teach me your ways, LORD, that I may walk in your truth; let me wholeheartedly revere your name.

Attitude is everything. Our attitude reveals how we feel about ourselves and others.  By our attitude we anger and repel others or draw them into our circle of caring.

Our attitude toward God, His Word and the priority we place on following Him reveals whether what we claim is real enough to impact our daily lives.

Is my faith mere words or a reverent attitude of the heart?

Courage

"Be strong and courageous and get to work. Don't be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you; he will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly" (1 Chron. 28:20 tlb).

Life happens. Life situations can be depressing and we can give in, give up and forget the direction in which we feel God is leading, because it seems hard and we aren't seeing the results for which we hoped--or as quickly. Yet God is all about trust. If the leading is truly of God confirmed through
His Word,
Prayer,
Circumstances
Godly advisers
And our own willingness to listen and do things His way,

Then He will not give up on us, so why give up on Him? Courage is sometimes trusting and moving forward when we don't see the light at the end of the tunnel even though we've been assured it is there.  

Light

Isaiah 9:2 NHEB The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in the land of the shadow of death, on them the light has shined.

Jesus came to bring light.  Without Him, our thoughts,  decisions and actions lead to confusion.  Since Jesus IS the light,  anything decided or done without His guidance will lead to darkness of mind and soul.

Do I live in His light, asking God to be part of my decision processes and following where He leads?

My Need

By Carolyn R Scheidies

I may not know
The way to go,
But I know He 
Who died for me.
And if I follow where He leads,
His loving hand
Provides my every need. 

But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

Truth


John 18:37 GW Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus replied, "You're correct in saying that I'm a king. I have been born and have come into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me."


Jesus is before Pilate and knows His life is soon going to end in an unpleasant death. Yet, He does not back away from who He is--the Savior. Had He been a regular, deluded person, this was the time to back pedal and try to save His life. He didn't. Instead He continued to declare that He was and is the way, the only way. Why? Because Jesus doesn't just speak truth, He IS truth. Without Him, all you have are shadows of truth. 


If you truly seek truth, you need to know Him--through acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross, communication with Him through prayer, and getting acquainted with His Word. If you want truth--ask Him. He knows and He'll answer. 

Living Life Full

John 17:3 GW This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. 

Life may be eternal, but it starts here and now. That's why when someone accepts Jesus' gift of salvation it is called "new life." 

Life in Christ starts the moment you ask Him into your life. He is eternal and His presence begins a work in us to help us become more like Him. 

Why wouldn't we want to be more caring and loving? Why wouldn't we want to have the confidence to know who we are, where we're going and have a loving friend and guide to show us the way?

Living life to the fullest is a life lived with Christ at the center for now and eternity.

The Winner

John 15:9-10 NKJV As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 

Jesus loves me.
Jesus loves you.
That means He desires the very best for us.
He knows the future. 
Seems to me when He asks us to follow Him, He is the only guide worth following. 
How? Through Prayer and Regularly reading His Word. 
Whatever else happens, He wins in the end.
Personally, I prefer to go with the winner.

Future Prospects

John 14:1-3 GW  Don’t be troubled. Believe in God, and believe in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again. Then I will bring you into my presence so that you will be where I am.

Jesus made promises and He keeps His promises. If we trust and follow Him, there are good things in store for us. He loves us enough to prepare for our future. He cares and prepares, sometimes more than we do. 

I am glad Jesus has my back. Do I have His by listening to and following where He leads?

There's a Word for That

I John 2:4-5 GW The person who says, "I know him," but doesn't obey his commandments is a liar. The truth isn't in that person. But whoever obeys what Christ says is the kind of person in whom God's love is perfected.That's how we know we are in Christ. 

We live in a culture where it is almost acceptable to claim one thing, but act contrary to that claim. Many who claim to follow Christ have little idea of what that means for a person's integrity and sexual purity. Such gaps between values and action destroys lives, reputations and relationships. 

As Christ-followers, our actions need to match what we claim--in caring for others, in honesty in our dealings, in sexual purity of heart, mind and behavior. But we can only know what God's principles are if we communicate with Jesus regularly and we study His Word. 

The word for those who claim one thing, but make a life-style habit of behaving differencesly are called hypocrits. Where am I on the scale of actually living out my faith in daily life? 

How Do I Rate?

I John 1:5b GW ...God is light, and there isn't any darkness in him. 

God is all that is good, holy and right. God doesn't say one thing and do another. While we may not understand His ways, they are never deceitful or dishonorable. The end does not justify the means. 

If we study God's character, not only will we see how to conduct our lives, we'll also understand the difference between God's way and man's. We'll know truth from error.

From ourselves to political candidates, how do we and they rate by God's standards--standards we don't understand unless we're reading and meditating on His Word regularly? 

Marriage--About Caring

I Peter 3:7b GW ...Honor your wives as those who share God's life-giving kindness so that nothing will interfere with your prayers. 

How many husbands honor their wives. (And wives their husbands) Wives want a relationship not a few cast off moments here and there. They want to know they matter, their opinions matter, their work for the family is noticed and appreciated. 

Husbands and wives who have successful, long-term positive and loving relationships, are those who choose to listen, laugh with and show care for one another, by taking seriously, working through and acting on concerns. 

Do I treat my spouse with respect? 

V. 8 Finally, everyone must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love each other, have compassion, and be humble.

Complainer

James 5:9 GW Brothers and sisters, stop complaining about each other, or you will be condemned. Realize that the judge is standing at the door. 

We live in a culture of complaining. Part of the reason is lack of personal responsibility. Everything is the fault of circumstance, the situation or another person or business. 

So we complain when things don't go our way, complain say or do things we don't like, complain became it is easier than taking action to remedy a situation. (And I'm not talking about suing someone for every problem large or small that comes our way.) 

Time to take responsibility for our own choices, realize people are people and aren't perfect either and live a life of abundance rather than wasting time complaining about others. 

Do I want to be known as someone who tears down with my constant complaints, or someone who lifts up with my positive attitudes and words? 

Moving On

I Peter 2:24 NKJV Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

We are healed not by trying, not by forgetting, not just by moving on, but by allowing Jesus to take our pain and hurt and heal us from within. All changes from the outside are temporary. Only changes made from the inside out are permanent and give us the guidance and strength to forgive, let go and truly move on without all the baggage of unresolved hurt. 

The Path to Peace--Self-control?

James 4:1 GW What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren't they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you? ... So place yourselves under God's authority. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners, and clear your minds, you doubters. 

When anger grows, before errupting, think and consider the true source of your anger. Too often anger that ends in fighting and quarrels is based in self-centeredness and selfishness by one or both involved parties. 

Quarrelling seldom has a positive ending. When we stir up, hold and cultivate anger and grudges we stop thinking, stop being rational. God gave us a mind. 

If we back off, let anger cool and seek His way instead of ours, we just may find healing and reconciliation or at least a path to follow that doesn't lead to bitterness and lashing out. 

Worry--Just What the Devil Likes

I Peter 5:7-9a GW Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you. Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him,...

So much easier to keep worrying. Not easy letting someone else take my burden--even God. Yet, when I worry, I don't think clearly and don't respond well. When I worry, I'm letting the devil win for that is just what he wants--make me shut out God and react in negative ways to the problem. 

I resist when I work with God, not against Him, trust God enough to ask for help and then listen and wait for guidance. 

How Do I Use My tongue?

James 3:5 GW In the same way the tongue is a small part of the body, but it can brag about doing important things. A large forest can be set on fire by a little flame. 

The tongue is a flame 
That starts out slow 
Catches fires and burns 
Whatever it touches. 

A flame of fire seems 
Innocent enough on a candle 
Lighting the room 
Making shadows flee 

But a flame to paper or dry grass 
Burns with intensity 
Exploding into widespread 
Often unintended destruction. 

So the words from our tongue 
Catch fire and burn 
Positive, kind words that comfort and heal, 
Or hurtful words and lies that destroy hearts, reputations and careers... 

A tongue of soft warm flame 
Enlightens and lifts up. 
A wicked flame turns, destroying even 
The source. 

Is my tongue one of healing or destruction? 

Is Prayer an Excuse?

James 2:16 GW ...one of you tells that person, "God be with you! Stay warm, and make sure you eat enough." If you don't provide for that person's physical needs, what good does it do? 

How often do we say, "I'll pray for you," and forget? Or worse use prayer as a substitute for actually helping someone because helping is inconvenient? 

Prayer is powerful and real. But it is to be used in conjunction with other actions, not in place of it. Prayer is not an excuse to do nothing. 

Prayer is serious business and when we commit to prayer, God knows our motivation and responds accordingly. 

Is prayer real for me or is "I'll pray for you" merely a ploy, an excuse, not to lend a helping hand? 

Unmerited Favor

I Peter 1:3 GW Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has given us a new birth because of his great mercy. 

Jesus died to offer new life. Our part? Accept His gift. Simple act, yet so very hard. It means realizing I'm not so good at running my own life. It means giving control to someone else. We know how good others do at running things and hesitate. Yet, God isn't like other people or government. He created us, loves us and really cares about our past--which He forgives, present--in which He guides and a future with Him. 

He knows we goof up and loves us anyway.  His offer of life and salvation isn't based on my "goodness" or church attendance or family connections. It is based on His mercy alone. He is trustworthy. After all, the world is in His ultimate control anyway. Because He loves me and wants the best for me, I can trust Him with my past, present...and future. 

Do I know Joy?

Psalm 95:1-2 GW Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord.  Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation. Let’s come into his presence with a song of thanksgiving. Let’s shout happily to him with psalms.

Church shouldn't be a must or something we groan about and do with a long face. Our faith should be about joy that we are loved and a thankfulness that we are not alone. Church should be about giving thanks for God's give of life, should be about fellowshipping with others of like heart and about reaching out to draw others to the One who saved and sustains us. 

Is my faith worth shouting about? If not, why not?

Psalm 96:4-6 GW The Lord is great! He should be highly praised. He should be feared more than all other gods because all the gods of the nations are idols. The Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are in his presence. Strength and beauty are in his holy place.

Expectations

James 1:5 GW If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. ... 

When we're confused about a choice we talk to our spouse, family, friends, co-workers... In seeking advice, how often do we neglect to go to the one source--God--who actually cares and has a plan and purpose for our lives? 

When we make choices, our first, not our last, stop should be Jesus, looking for direction in His Word and communicating our need through prayer. Of course, then we need to listen and wait for His guidance. 

If we truly wish an answer we must start with a willingness to follow that guidance. Otherwise why should Jesus bother giving it? It is all about trusting Him. 

V. 7 GW A person who has doubts shouldn't expect to receive anything from the Lord.

V. 12 Blessed are those who endure when they are tested. When they pass the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Stand Against Fear

II Timothy 1:7-8 For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  Do not therefore be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 

Want to be brave and bold? Ask Jesus to take control. There is no fear in love, because God is love. So, when we fear, we're trusting, depending upon ourselves, our experiences, our rationalizations, our intellect and not on Christ or His power within.

We need to ask: Who do I wish to please? Who do I truly serve--myself and Satan's lies, or the One who can set me free?

Help me, Jesus, stand against fear and chose to trust You--even if I do so one baby step at a time. 

V. 12 KJV For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 

(c) 2010 Carolyn R Scheidies FIRST I BOW

Influences

Hebrews 12:1 GW Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. 

We are influenced by those we look up to and admire. The question is--do we admire people of integrity, honor and faith in Christ? Do we look up to those who model Godly principles in speech, choices, behavior and lifestyles? 

If not, we're being influenced away, not toward Christ. We need to get rid of those things in our lives that slow down or become a barrier to our faith. That may be no longer allowing certain influences in our lives in what we see, hear, listen to and read or in those we allow into our inner circle of relationships. 

If we choose wisely, we have a more solid foundation on which to help our children and others around us also choose wisely. 

Rewards

II Kings 18:6-7a GW He <king hezekiah>was loyal to the LORD and never turned away from him. He obeyed the commands that the LORD had given through Moses, so the LORD was with him. He succeeded in everything he tried: ... 

When we don't succeed, when our lives go horribly wrong, our tendency is to blame God. His all powerful so why didn't He...?

King Hezekiah's life was anything but easy. Israel constantly faced enemies seeking to wipe them off the map. <some things never change.> But King Hezekiah knew One thing--He knew God was stronger than his enemies. He put following God as the central pillar of his life and in the lives of his people. 

We often make choices without relying on God and blame Him when we don't like the results. King Hezekiah modeled a life of faith. He didn't blame God for choices made. He did honor Him--no matter what and God rewarded His faithfulness

Hebrews 11:6 GW No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

A Hand Up

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice, my pleas for mercy. I will call on him as long as I live because he turns his ear toward me.” Psalm 116:1-2 GW

How many times do we feel alone, that no one really "hears" us or cares? It may or may not be true, but of this we can be sure. God does hear--all the time. It doesn't matter where we are, He hears. We don't need to call, write or text Him, but we do need to communicate the needs of our hearts. 

Jesus doesn't force us to follow Him. That choice is ours. He waits for us to come to Him, ready to give us a hug and a hand up. 

Open Connection to God

Hebrews 10:19 GW Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the holy place. 

There is no question. Jesus died and rose again to open a direct connection. As with any open connection, it has be hooked up or there is no benefit. I may have Internet access, but unless I hookup my computer I won't have a connection. 

Jesus offers that connection to Him. Because of His sacrifice, we can communicate at any place or time. If we come willing to listen and obey, we need never fear. 

God hears and interacts with us because He loves us. Even when we goof up big time, He cares, will forgive if we ask, and will move on behalf of those who seek to follow Him. 

Opportunity is Now

Hebrews 9:27 GW People die once, and after that they are judged. 

After death there is no second chance to make things right, shows like the Ghost Whisperer notwithstanding. God has given us ample opportunity in this life to accept and live for Him, and to let His love flow through us to those around us. 

The question is, will we make the decision to truly follow Him--while we're alive, before it is too late? 

Because I Don't Understand

Psam 42:11 GW Why are you discouraged, my soul?
      Why are you so restless?
       Put your hope in God,
        because I will still praise him.
        He is my savior and my God.

No matter what happens in our lives, we have a choice to trust or turn away. God doesn't disappear because we pout and don't get our way. He doesn't disappear because we don't like where we find ourselves in life or don't understand. He's God. We're not. 

That's the beauty of Christ. He doesn't force us to serve Him. He loves us enough to hold His hand open and let us choose His love or our own way. Yet without Him, we are restless and unfulfilled. Why? Because He is life, He is truth and He is the way to hope for today and tomorrow. 

I will put my hope in God--even when I don't understand or, maybe, because I don't.

What Manner of Love

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! I John 3:1 NKJV

How amazing that the God of all creation sees us not as bugs to be squashed underfoot, but as His children whom He loves, died for and with whom He wishes a daily relationship. He is not an ogre, but a loving father who created a rational world of cause and effect, a world of principles. Our choices do matter for good and bad. Sometimes it is just easier to blame God than ourselves or others we care about. 

Still God waits, ready to give hope, comfort and a hand up...all for the asking....when we acknowledge His rightful place in our lives as our father and follow Him, putting us in sync with the principles already in place in the world. 

Everything

Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more.” Philippians 1:21 GW

For the apostle Paul, everything revolved around his relationship with the Christ he once fought so hard against. He knew Jesus saved him and revolutionized his life. He never forgot and even though he was beaten and often run out of town, he didn't turn his back on his faith. 

Threats, shipwrecks and prison weren't enough to make Paul blame or turn away from Christ. What does it take for us--fear, embarrassment, loss of a loved one, economic reversals?  It is too easy to stop counting our blessings, stop thanking God for what He has done and start complaining, start running our own lives, start blaming God when our lives (often because of our own choices) don't turn out the way we hoped.

Am I ready, like Paul, to make Christ everything in my life?

Tough Times

Hebrews 6:15 GW So Abraham received what God promised because he waited patiently for it. 

Patience. It is something lackling in most of our lives. We like instant food, entertainment and relationships. If something isn't working we throw it away and seek something new. We do this with products, employment and relationships. 

But when we aren't willing to work through the hard times and problems, we never know the joy that patience brings. A solid relationship isn't built on the shallow bed of transient pleasure, but on a willingness to work through the lows. 

Receiving God's promises means trusting Him through the tough times, trusting and following His principles even when we don't have all or any of the answers. 

Am I a faithful Christ-follower or merely a fair-weather friend? Receiving God's promises means all the difference in the answer. 

Through the Darkness

Hebrews 5:8-9 GW Although Jesus was the Son of God, he learned to be obedient through his sufferings. After he had finished his work, he became the source of eternal salvation for everyone who obeys him.

Many believe accepting Jesus is like receiving the keys to the city, that now nothing bad will happen. But anyone who studies scripture knows that isn't the truth. Those who follow God's path will find trials have just begun. Why?

Because standing with Jesus means standing against Satan and he'll do anything to trip us up and turn us from trusting Christ. He'll do anything to get us to blame instead of worship God.

Jesus certainly didn't have it easy and He WAS God. But while life may be difficult, the gift Jesus offers, because of His sacrifice, is that we don't need to walk alone. When we turn to instead of away from Him, Jesus walks with us through the darkness with guidance, comfort and hope.

He Sees

Hebrews 4:13 GW No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for him to see. We must answer to him. 

We can hide from others. Sometimes we even fool ourselves. When we spread rumors, cheat, twist the "truth" to our advantage, God sees, God knows. He doesn't wink at wrongdoing. Sin has consequences for others and for us. 

Maybe if we consider that Jesus sees it all when we make decisions, we'll make ones that are more positive, honest and right. 

Caring Enough

“Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 GW

How do we use our bodies? Do we protect or abuse them, subject them to excesses and dishonor the God we claim to serve by what we allow? If I honor God, should I not take care of the vessel He created just for me--my body? This includes what I stuff into my mind with books and other media. 

Jesus died for me. Should I not appreciate His sacrifice enough to "redeem the time" by filling my mind and body with those things such as God's Word and a healthy diet for mind and body? 

First or Last

Psalm 212:1I-12 GW I look up toward the mountains. Where can I find help? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

We often look many places for help and assistance. What we often miss is going to Jesus, asking Him for help and guidance and listening when He speaks--through His Word, through spouse, family or friends or through a quiet voice inside.

Real help comes from the Creator and the One who knows and loves me best. Why don't I trust Him enough to go to Him first?

Complainer or Encourager

Hebrews 3:13 GW Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity. If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn. 

Complaining is easy and there is so much to complain about. But complaining doesn't help others, doesn't lift up and seldom leads to positive solutions. 

God calls us not to be complainers, but to be encouragers. Do our constant complaints and negative attitudes discourage our spouse, kids, friends and co-workers? 

What can I do to encourage rather than discourage others? It starts with putting Jesus at the center of my life, thoughts and behavior. After all, Christ is the embodiment of love. 

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