Sunday, November 21, 2010

Giving Thanks in Everything!

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

          As we do our last minute grocery shopping for the delicious Thanksgiving feast this coming Thursday, or prepare to travel to break bread and spend time with family and friends, let's remember to do so with thankful hearts.
          We all know that giving thanks is something we should do every day no matter what, especially during the holiday season. But we also know giving thanks isn't always easy, especially when the busyness and stress of the holidays rob us of the peace and tranquility the Lord wants us to have. It's especially difficult to be thankful if we're going through some really tough times. But even in the midst of the stress and the challenges we face, the Lord wants us to give thanks. Not necessarily for the stress and problems we might be experiencing, but for going through them with Him, our refuge and strength. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. God is the only one who can give us the strength and the wisdom we need to get through our dark times.
          If you're not going through any difficulties at the moment, praise God! If you are going through a difficult trial, praise God anyway! Begin to thank Him for the food you eat each day; for friends and family; your church home; your job, or the new one that's on the way; for the money you have in the bank; for your health; your children; your car; your home, and the breath you just took.
          As you begin to thank the Lord for all of these blessings, your problems will seem smaller and God will seem greater. You'll realize you're not as bad off as you thought you were, and that there's still hope. "By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life. ... Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:8,11).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for all of the blessings you give us each day. Help us to remember each and every one as we travel through this journey we call life. Thank you for the holiday season, a time we can reconnect with family and friends and truly focus on you. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Is Your Heart on Fire for God Like the Burning Bush?

“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.” (Exodus 3:1-3)

          When Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock, heading out to the far side of the desert, he was pleasantly surprised by the incredible sight he’d never seen before and would never see again: a burning bush.
          As the fall season peaks, I, too, am pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous, fiery red leaves of the burning bush shrubs that illuminate my neighborhood and the nearby shopping centers. Did you know that the burning bush (Euonymus alata “compactus”) is one of the great beauties of the autumn season, distinguished by its vibrant scarlet foliage and small red-orange fruit? (Source:  Some burning bush shrubs can grow six to 10 feet; others as tall as 15 feet or more. Their 1- to 3-inch long leaves help radiate their vibrant color, setting them apart from all other plants and trees.

          When I think about the flames of fire emanating from the burning bush Moses saw at the mountain of God and the fiery red color of the burning bush shrubs of the fall season, two poignant questions come to mind: As children of God, are our hearts on fire for the Lord? Are we serving Him with fervor — with zeal?
          The Lord says we’re not to lack in zeal but keep our spiritual fervor, serving Him (Romans 12:11).  Remember Jesus’ disciples who were walking on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection? They had followed Jesus during his three-year ministry, listened to him preach the gospel, and witnessed his incredible miracles. But they still doubted who Jesus was and why he came, as the Lord discerned while speaking with them about the events that led to his crucifixion and resurrection and about the scriptures concerning himself. Only after Jesus disappeared from their sight at the dinner table did the disciples realize who He was and that everything He said about himself was true. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

          Do our hearts burn within us when we hear, read, and live out the scriptures in our everyday lives? If not, they should. Jesus wants us hot, not cold (Revelation 3:15). If our hearts are on fire for the Lord, that is wonderful. If it used to be on fire, and we notice the fire is slowly but surely going out, don’t worry. We can rekindle that fire by asking God to fan the flames through individual and group bible study and prayer, staying connected with other believers in a small group, and serving those in need in your community.  
          Remember, the Lord loves you. Seek Him first in all you do, and soon your heart will warm up and be on fire to serve Him and others around you. And you will be blessed.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please keep our hearts warm toward you. Set our hearts ablaze so we can serve you with passion, and share your love and compassion with others. In Jesus’ name, amen! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Restored Self-esteem

“A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman — who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels, and her value is far above rubies or pearls.” (Proverbs 31:10)

       “Why am I always messing up?” I asked the Lord, sobbing, following a terrible misunderstanding I had with someone recently who called me a few choice words. “I can’t seem to do anything right. I’m always making mistakes.”
       I was crushed.
       I sent a text message to one of my best friends to give her a hint about what happened. I was too upset to talk, so I told her not to call me. Just pray. Of course, she called me anyway. Tears spilled down my face as she read Psalm 59 and prayed for me.

Perfect Peace
       After our call, I felt some sense of peace, so I began searching the Web for a bible study I was thinking about introducing to my women’s group — only to realize it was out of print. I called the publisher to see if it had any study guides in stock. No such luck. The gentleman on the phone suggested a similar study written by the same author.
As I read the first few pages of the excerpt online, I gasped. You are a “capable, intelligent and virtuous woman,” the Lord said. No matter what anyone thinks. You are my precious daughter. Holy. Innocent. Righteous.
       Instantly, my spirit soared!

Whisper of Sweet Nothings
       The Lord also said everyone makes mistakes, but don’t dwell on your shortcomings or condemn yourself. You’re forgiven and free of guilt. You’re the apple of My eye and surrounded with My favor.
       I smiled from ear to ear.
       The next day, I discovered a Christian bookstore that sold 8½ x 11-inch single sheets of stationery with various scripture messages on them. I saw one that featured Proverbs 31with the words “A Virtuous Woman” displayed in bold across the top. It now hangs prominently in my cubicle at work and on my bathroom wall at home as a reminder of what God says about me. 

God of All Comfort
       God’s Word met me right where I was that dreadful day — far down in the pit of despair. He healed my broken heart — and He promises to do the same for you. So when your world seemingly falls apart, cry out to the one who loves you perfectly. He will lift you up and give you a firm place on which to stand. 

Prayer: Thank you Lord for loving us so much, for seeing the best in us no matter what mistakes we make or what anyone says about us. And most of all, thank you for answering us in our desperate times. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

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