For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. —Romans 15:4

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ever Green

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

One afternoon after work, I strolled along the sidewalk to my car. As usual at this time of year, I glanced at the trees to see the autumnal colors. The college has some lovely maples and several other smaller trees. Along one side of the walkway, a group of small pines stood in front of several deciduous trees whose scarlet, gold, and orange leaves were in the process of falling. It struck me that we, the people God created, are like the trees who go through seasons of change. Not just aging, but spiritual challenges, physical adjustments, and emotional trials.

As I studied the beautiful scene, my focus then rested on the pines. Evergreens don't lose their leaves. They retain their rich, verdant color, even after all the leaves from the deciduous trees fall to the ground. Just as the maples and oaks reminded me of people, the pines reminded me of Jesus. He's always the same. No matter what happens, Jesus is still Jesus and God is still God. Sovereign and in control. My faith rests in the one who never changes. Praise God that I can live without fear because he is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Three Choices

Ephesians 6:18-20
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

When someone I love is sick, when finances stress me out, when I've sinned, or when life just stinks— I have three choices.
1. Worry and fret. 2. Ignore the situation. 3. Pray.

Sad to say, I sometimes attack the problem using choices 1 and 2 before I get to number 3. I know better. But too often there is so much noise in the world, not necessarily verbal noise,  but so much going on that I push myself away from the one who can help. I don't stop to think about what I need or the person I should be praying for needs. Instead, I fall into the trap of doubt and fear.

Truth is, Jesus wants me to call on him instead of worry. He wants me to call on him instead of hiding. He wants me to call on him and trust him to answer.
This year I've made an effort, when someone requests prayer, to stop at that moment and send up thoughts to God. I've done better, but I still get distracted and forget. But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying. The apostle Paul asked the folks in the Ephesian church to pray for him. He needed their intercession. I want to throw out a challenge to anyone reading this. This week in everything you do, every person you hear of who needs prayer, every situation—pray first. I'll be doing it too. I believe prayer makes all the difference in our daily lives.

If you'd like me to pray for you. Please, let me know.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

Psalm 62:5-8
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
 Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

Does anyone else remember singing or still sing "My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand..." a hymn written by Edward Mote in 1834. And 182 years later this song still comes to mind. As the chaos of the world swirls around me I need the reassurance that God is my fortress. 

Sin is alive and well. Satan is attacking. But rather than hide under a rock, I'm taking refuge on the Rock.

My hope rests in Jesus. I trust him with everything. Yes, everything. If you feel the weight of the world, the chaos of life, fear for our country—seek Jesus. He's the calm in the storm. He's the one who brings comfort and peace in the midst of mayhem. He is the solid Rock.

Praise God for peace in turmoil that comes only through him.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Forest Sings

Psalm 96:11-13
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.

When the leaves begin to turn and the temperatures cool, my heart sings. On our walks with the dogs, I've noticed the rich shades of purple and gold in the weeds along the ditches and woods. But nothing beats the beauty of the reds, oranges, and yellows I look forward to in the fall. The trees cycle through their process. Chlorophyll breaks down and pigments mix in and create the abundance of color. As autumn progresses the leaves tumble to the ground and carpet our walking paths. Trees are a fascinating part of God's creation. They provide shade, wood for furniture and paper, sap for maple syrup, and limbs for climbing.

As I walk in the woods I am amazed by the tall oaks and maples. The beautiful dogwood brings me joy. As much as I love the science of trees, I'm more fascinated with the Bible verses that talk about the forest singing for joy. 1 Chronicles 16:33, Isaiah 44:23, and Psalm 96:12 all talk about the trees giving praise to their creator. And I'm sure in their own way they do. The splendor of fall has to bring joy to God. He made them and they're showing off their beauty just for him.

If the trees can stand tall and rejoice to the Lord. Shouldn't I? Life gets tough. Days are hard. Weeks seem long sometimes. But even in discouragement, I want to praise God. He made me. He takes care of me. He loves me. Praise and joy to the one who created the forest!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What's Expected?

Psalm 5:3
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.

The calendar declared September 22 as the first day of autumn. But in Ohio the thermometers registered close to ninety degrees. Too hot to be considered the wonderful season of change I look forward to every year. I'm not a summer person. Although I've enjoyed swimming with the grandkids and visiting Lake Erie, I'm ready for cooler days and nights. Breezes with the slight smell of chimney smoke and fallen leaves. And oh the pumpkin flavored goodies. But because of the hot days, I can't wrap my head around the idea that leaves will be changing soon, and I'll be donning a jacket. Because the season hasn't changed as I expected, I feel restless, unsure I can trust the weather.

Expectations can be misleading and disappointing. How often have I expected God to show up the way I thought he should ? I've prayed and assumed he'd answer exactly as I petitioned. When he didn't, anxiety crept in, my imagination blew out of proportion, and I felt restless. But then, guess what. I found out that God knows better than I do. My expectations don't always match the wisdom of my loving Father. I've learned it's better to push expectations to the sidelines and instead embrace faith and trust. I believe God knows best. And I need to put that into practice. Is it easy? Nope. But life is so much better when I anticipate with faith instead of my own assumptions.

Praise God that he knows what's best for me!

Have you had expectations and found out God had a better plan?