An unexpected Christmas

This morning as I think about this Christmas, I think about the many people I know for whom this Christmas is extra hard. It’s just not the Christmas they expected or wanted it to be. Some mourning the loss of a parent, others the loss of a spouse, and still others the loss of children. Many are separated from their spouse on this day due to military deployments or assignments. Many are laying sick or injured in a hospital bed or dealing with an life threatening disease. For many, it’s just not what they expected.

And then I also think about this day – the real Christmas Day that happened over 2000 years ago – and I think how that day didn’t go as people expected either. Our Savior, our King of Kings and Lord of Lords was coming. But he wasn’t coming to be born in a huge palace. Instead, he was born in a humble stable. That was unexpected.

His mother was an ordinary, young, teenage mother who wasn’t famous or well known. That was unexpected.

The first people to receive news of Jesus’ birth were the lowly, despised shepherds as they watched over their flocks. This was unexpected.

None of this was an accident, it was God’s plan. Jesus left his glorious home in heaven where everything is perfect to come down to this earth for us. He chose a humble beginning because he came to this earth to serve others and to save us – not to be a powerful earthly King. He wants us to adore him, not because of his power and riches, but because of his love for us. Because the gift he gives us is something money can’t buy and actions can’t earn.

The greatest gift we could ever receive is something we can’t buy or earn. That too is unexpected.

I pray you will receive this precious gift this year if you haven’t already. I pray you will have a very unexpected and beautiful Christmas this year.

Leave No Man Behind

A common phrase in the military is, “Leave no man behind”. In fact, part of the Soldier’s Creed is, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” This morning, I was listening to the song “So Will I” by Hillsong, and a couple lines in particular stood out to me today.

“You chased down my heart through all of my failure and pride.”

“You’re the one who never leaves the one behind.”

 

God will never leave us behind, if we are seeking him. I think it’s amazing that he doesn’t simply allow us to come to him. That alone is an overwhelming thought. Can you imagine the President of the United States just allowing anyone and everyone to just walk into his office anytime? Or the President of any major company? The Queen of England? Of course not! Even your neighbor probably doesn’t want you just walking in their house unannounced. But God, the Creator of the world, allows us to come to him anytime day or night without an appointment. He is never too busy to listen to us. He never hides from us.

But it gets better! He doesn’t simply allow us to come to him, but he actively pursues us. He chases us down and tries repeatedly to get our attention because he does not want any of his creation to be left behind or to spend eternity in Hell. Ultimately, He leaves the choice to us, because that is free will. He doesn’t force us to come to him, because force is not love. But he never, ever gives up pursuing us.

Just like we desire relationships with other people, God desires that relationship with each of us. He wants us to come to him, to talk to him, seek his help. He knows everything about you – everything you’ve ever done, everything that’s been done to you, and everything you will do. In spite of all that, he LOVES you more than any human being ever could, and he pursues you because he wants you to spend eternity with him. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but he allows you to make the choice. Will you choose HIM? Choose to accept his love?

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

 

If you are a parent of multiple kids, have you ever had one wander off in a store or at the zoo? Didn’t you go looking for them, calling their name, trying to get their attention? When you found them, didn’t you rejoice? That’s how God feels about you! He is looking for you to come to him, and together with all the angels he will rejoice when you make the decision to turn to him.

  “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14

Revive me!

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Matthew 22:37 says,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So often we hear this scripture quoted in reference to how we are to love others. Speakers and preachers will remind us that we are to love our neighbor, and even our enemy, as much as we love ourselves or as much as we love God. However, I think we often skip over the first part of this verse. We read it, but then we move on as if we’ve got the first part down and only need to work on the second. We think to ourselves, “Of course I love God! It’s that other person I have trouble loving.

Do we really love God?

If we go back and read it, we see that we are to love God with ALL our heart. ALL our soul. ALL our mind. Am I really doing that – loving him with my whole heart, not just part of it?

Am I putting God first in everything I do? Do I start my day with him every single day? Seek his word and his will in all things?

Do I obey his word? Not just the Ten Commandments, but all of it – even the parts that tell me not to worry, or to go and make disciples.

Do I really trust him with everything?

Our church is in the middle of a revival time this week. We are having several times to gather together, sing worship songs, and hear a speaker share God’s word with us. It’s a sweet, sweet time. I’m sure you are familiar with the word revival. You’ve probably even seen it on a church sign advertising an upcoming event. But what does it mean? Why are we having a period of revival as a church? The simple answer is because we want to love God more. It’s something that all followers of Jesus Christ need, not just the people that attend this one specific church building on Sundays. So, as a church, we are committing to focus on this more intensely this week.

According to Webster, REVIVAL means “a renewed attention to or interest in something”

In the Bible, when the word REVIVED is used, it literally means “to return to life”. We see this in I Kings 17:22, when God brings a boy back to life from the dead.

We need to bring our love for God back from the dead. To renew our interest in Him, and our attention to Him. I know I’m guilty of losing my passion sometimes in the middle of the day to day life stuff. We let ourselves get too busy. Distraction is a tool the enemy uses to keep our eyes focused on things of this world, instead of on Jesus! It’s very effective. In fact, a few distractions and suddenly we are doing the enemy’s work for him by keeping our heart, soul, and mind on things of this temporary world that don’t matter instead of on Jesus – the only One who does matter.

In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus is talking to one of the churches and he says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth!

Whether you drink water, coffee or tea – you probably like your drink hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Just like those drinks are disgusting to us at that temperature, it’s distasteful to Jesus when our feelings for him are lukewarm.

What does it mean to be lukewarm? We become indifferent to him by letting the distractions of the world kill our passion and love for him. We then let our indifference become idleness and we stop living for Christ. Maybe we just barely get by in our relationship with him. We read our Bible as a checkmark on our To-Do list instead of to truly meet with him and hear from him. We go to church because it’s tradition rather than because we are going to worship him. Or maybe we stop going to church because we’d rather sleep in, we have other activities on Sundays, or we don’t get along with someone at church. Ultimately, when we allow other things, no matter how big or small, to become more important than Jesus – we’ve become lukewarm.

When this happens we get focused on ourselves, what we want, and what will make us happy. Jesus doesn’t want us to follow him halfway or be Christians in name only. He wants us to be passionate and on fire for him! He wants us to constantly revive our faith.

I’m praying for revival this week. In my heart, in our family, in our church, and in our community. We need Jesus more than ever, and until the day he returns to take us home, we need to live our lives for him.

As you look ahead, don’t miss today!

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Ever feel like you are wandering through a desert in life? Maybe you are waiting for orders to go to the next duty station. Maybe you are in between jobs and wondering what is coming next. Where will you go? When will you go?

Let me encourage you this morning. God knows. He has a plan for you and if you trust him, he will reveal that plan to you in his perfect timing. Just trust him and obey him a step at a time as he reveals it to you. You likely won’t see the whole plan at once. You probably won’t even see the full “5 year plan”, but he’ll give you just enough light for the step you are on if you are willing to take it a step at a time and trust him.  By the way, Stormie OMartian wrote a book called “Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On”, and I highly recommend it!

I’m a planner myself and I do like to know what the schedule is. Each week, I look at the week ahead and make plans. I plan meals, school, field trips, laundry days, family time – trying to balance it all. I often write things on my calendar a month or even months in advance but honestly, a week at a time is about all I can really schedule. More like a day at a time. Life happens. Things come up. Someone gets sick. People need help. So we have to be flexible.

Jesus wants me to be flexible in my schedule so that I can do things for him. If I’m so tied to my schedule that I don’t have time to help a neighbor then I’m too busy. If I’m rushing so much that I don’t have my quiet time with the Lord each morning reading his word, praying to him, and listening to him – then I’m too busy.

There is a comfort in knowing that God is really in control of my schedule, and if I will allow him to lead then I know I will get where I need to be, when I need to be there.

This morning I was reading my Bible in the book of Numbers, chapter 9, – during the time that the Israelites were wandering in the desert. As they were traveling along, they didn’t stay at hotels, or pop in to a friend’s house to sleep on the sofa. Instead, they had to pack up their entire camp and take it with them to the next location. Their “camp” would have been approximately 12 acres in size with all the people & animals that were with them. That’s a lot of tents to take down and set up! Not to mention the entire tabernacle that had to be taken apart and carried to the new location and then set up again. It wasn’t a small pop up tent either. The tabernacle itself was about 45 feet x 15 feet, with the outer court area measuring about 150 feet by 75 feet. It required 3 different tribes of people to carry all the parts of the tabernacle to its new location.

How did they know where to go, and when to travel? God showed them! He revealed himself as a pillar of fire over the tabernacle during the night, and a cloud over the tabernacle during the day. When the cloud moved on, the Israelites knew it was time to move too. Sometimes, at his command, they would stay somewhere for only a few days. Other times, they would stay for a month or a year. Whatever the time, they obeyed God’s command and encamped at the place he chose for them.

God didn’t just randomly send them out to a strange place. God always went ahead of them to lead the way and he always remained with them. Just as today, he never asks us to go somewhere that he hasn’t already been.

We stayed at one duty station for almost 5 years. Another one we were at for only 9 months. So far we’ve been at our current one for 8 months. We assume we’ll be here for 3 years or so, but the reality is – only God knows. Not even the Army is in charge of where we will go – God is. When it is time, he will direct our path and lead us to the place that he wants us to go next.

In the meantime, we are to live for him HERE. So often, we are so busy looking ahead to what is coming next that we miss the blessings of where we are NOW. Whether we are here for a few days, or a few years, I believe God has a plan and a purpose in our location and in everyone he puts in our path. Sometimes we meet someone that affects our lives in just a few moments.  Sometimes we never see them again, and other times they remain in our lives for years.

As a military spouse, it’s easy to get to a new duty station and avoid getting involved in the local community because we know that we will move again one day. It’s hard to make friends knowing that you will have to leave them again. But if we avoid getting involved and meeting people, we miss out on SO MUCH. We miss out on blessings that the Lord has for us, and we miss out on the opportunity to bless others.

Living in our RV, we meet new people constantly. Some come and stay a long time at the campground, and others are only here for a night or a weekend.  Either way, we love meeting these new people – hearing their stories, learning about their lives.  God’s timing is perfect, and he often places people together in the same place at the same time for a purpose. We need to be open to seeing what he has planned for us each day right where we are. How can we love the people that are around us right now? What can we do for Christ today, right where we are?

What if there wasn’t a “next” to wonder about? What if right here, right now was the last place I’d be before Christ comes back? We don’t know what the future will hold, so let’s make the best of each day that we are given right where we are. If and when it is time to move on to another place, he will let us know – and we will follow him.

Do you need PEACE in your life?

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Do you need more peace in your life?  I always feel peaceful when I am surrounded by nature.  I love being by the water watching it move with the wind or being surrounded by trees and listening to all the birds chirping – away from all the noises of daily life.  Unfortunately, the reality is that we can’t escape every day life all the time and we do have to face some difficult circumstances and challenging situations.  How then, do we hang on to that PEACE all the time?

The truth is – there is only one way to true, lasting peace – JESUS.  It’s not automatic, but everyone has the same opportunity to experience it.  It’s not just a matter of believing in God – most people do.  It’s not even just believing that Jesus was a man who really existed.  The way to that deep down, in your gut, everlasting, constant peace is by choosing to believe that Jesus is God’s son, he lived a perfect, sinless life and then chose to die on the cross to take the punishment for all our sins – every one.  For you.  For me.  Why?  Because he loves you that much and wants to spend eternity with you.  He could have called on 10,000 angels to save him from the cross, but he chose to sacrifice himself for each of us.  And that’s not even the best part – the best part is that he rose from the dead 3 days later and He LIVES today!

2 main things separate Christianity (followers of CHRIST) from other “religions”.  One is that we worship a LIVING Lord!  Every other religion worships someone who is dead or a statue that was never alive in the first place.  The second thing is that most religions say you have to work for your salvation.  They say you have to earn it.  Make sure your good deeds outnumber your bad ones.  Some even say you have to hate or hurt people.  That’s NOT right!!  There is nothing you can do to earn salvation – an eternal perfect life in Heaven – because it’s a free gift being offered to you. All you have to do is choose to believe, on faith, and accept it.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

You believe that wind exists right?  Yet, you don’t see it – you simply see the effects of it on other things.  Well, without any doubt in my mind, I see evidence of Jesus and God every single day.

Accepting these truths, will bring you PEACE.  Not a perfect or painless life, but a peaceful one.  My life hasn’t been perfect or painless – in fact, there have been many, many heartaches, physical sufferings, trials and hard times.  But through it all – I’ve found peace, because I trust in the One who is in control.  The one who created the universe, knows the number of hairs on your head, controls the sea, gave the birds their songs, made the bumblebee able to fly, makes a tiny acorn grow into a magnificent oak tree – He is in control and he loves you!

“Therefore, since we have been justified through FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 5:1)

We are justified (saved from eternal damnation in Hell) by our FAITH – not our works.  That is what bring us an everlasting peace.    You don’t have to have all the facts to have faith.  You don’t have to have all your questions answered to have faith.  Thank goodness, because we never will!  I don’t have to understand everything about how something works to believe it’s true.  Take the step of faith, and open your heart to letting Jesus into your life.  It’s so worth it!  YOU are worth it! 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

You are more valuable than the birds

As I sit here this morning having my quiet time, I keep looking out our large front window.  My view is filled with white as we have snow still covering most of the area after the blizzard this past weekend, but in front of the white background I keep seeing little brown birds fluttering around as they search for food.  We have a few patches of grass starting to show through and the birds keep congregating there as they hop around looking for a meal.  As I watch these little birds land on the tree in front of our window and pick at the little berries, I am in awe at how the Lord takes care of us.  If he will provide food and shelter for these little birds, then we can trust him to provide what we need as well. 

 

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Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:26-27, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable that they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

 

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We must put our trust in the One who can provide for our needs.  So often we collect or hold on to “stuff” in an effort to feel secure.  We buy or hold on to way more than we need “just in case” we need it.   Instead, our security should be found in Christ alone.   He loves you dearly, and will provide for your every need, just as he provides for each little bird.   Even in the middle of a storm, he is holding on to you and if you seek him, you will see his great love for you.

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I met a man named George

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Today I met a man named George. I was out running a couple of errands and saw him when I stopped at a red light. He was holding a sign that said, “Homeless. Please pray for me.” I pulled out some money to give him as I do when I feel the Holy Spirit’s nudging like that, but when I handed it to him there was something different in his eyes. He smiled and thanked me as most usually do, but then he said something else that got my attention. He said he knew God would provide. He told me his name and asked me to pray for him and when I told him mine he said he would pray for me. I promised him I would pray for him. I did, and will continue to.

As I drove away, my eyes were filled with tears and I just felt like I needed to do more for George. My heart was humbled as I thought about the joy that was showing through his eyes even in the middle of his circumstances. Here is a man living on the street with nothing but a backpack and he’s going to pray for ME? This isn’t the first time I’ve been awestruck by someone who, by worldly standards, has nothing yet they are obviously filled with the Spirit and therefore have everything. Without a doubt, I know that it is not our worldly possessions that bring great rewards in Heaven.

My Hubby and I have talked about evangelism lately and this meeting today had me thinking – why is it so hard for those of us living a comfortable, Christian lifestyle to talk to others about Jesus? We get so wrapped up in what people will think or what it might cost us that we don’t often enough talk about all that God has done in our lives. Why can someone who seems to have nothing, see so much more clearly all that God has done for them – and be so willing to share that with anyone who will listen? George had my attention for probably less than a minute at the red light, but he didn’t let that moment pass without sharing his trust in God.

God’s word tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Even if you don’t sew, I’m sure you know how tiny the eye of a needle is compared to how enormous a camel is. I don’t want to be that rich man (woman) that cares more about clinging to what I have than about helping those in need.

As I turned the corner at the next light, I knew what I had to do. I stopped by a bookstore and bought George a Bible. Emily picked out a “31 Days of Prayer” book for him too. We grabbed a bottle of water and headed back to George. This time we pulled in and parked so we could walk over and chat with him. Emily gave him the bag of chips I had bought her at our last errand, along with the water. I asked him if he had a copy of the Bible with him and he said he did not. So I gave him the Bible with the “To/From” page in the front filled in. We chatted for a few minutes and he said he had been out on the streets for a few weeks. He said he had made some mistakes in his life and was dealing with some of the consequences. I didn’t ask what he had done because it didn’t matter. We’ve all made mistakes. Then he said, “I know that God will provide what I need. I just have to have patience. I hope…no, I KNOW, that he hasn’t forgotten about me.”

It was all I could do to keep my tears in my eyes until after I left him. I told him that God had most definitely not forgotten about him and that He will provide for him. We talked about how even in our hardest circumstances, God is there with us. He said he was just trusting that God would send someone along to give him some work. He had been to the shelter here, but said it’s always full.

I wish I could have just taken him home with me. In the end, we left him with a hug and a promise to pray for him. I know he has enough money for food, and I do know that God will provide for him, but I still wish I could do more.

As we pulled away, he was looking through his new Bible. I prayed that God would allow him to understand everything he reads. I don’t know how much experience he has with it, and I know some of it can be confusing, but I know that God can allow those words to penetrate his soul and that he will understand what he needs to. I was hoping he wouldn’t just start with Leviticus and get frustrated or confused. After I got home I decided the next time an opportunity like this comes up, I will give out The Jesus Storybook Bible instead. It’s sold as a children’s Bible but it is the best one I have ever read and is written in such a way that is perfect for adults as well. It tells some of the most commonly known stories from the Old and New Testament, and then explains how every single story points to JESUS.

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Just when you think you are blessing someone else in need, he uses that situation to bless us in return. I hope to see George again, and I hope that I never forget him as I strive to live the life I’ve been given and as I look for ways to let Jesus’ light shine through me to others. Jesus tells us over and over (and over and over) again in His Word to help the poor and the needy. This needs to be more than an occasional handout. It needs to be our lifestyle as followers of Christ.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that what we do for others we do for him. That should motivate us to do more. I pray that I see clearly the opportunities that God puts in front of me and that I am obedient to act.  Let us all look for those opportunities to spread the love of Christ.  To HIM be the glory!

Don’t give God yesterday’s goat

The title will make sense in a moment, just hang with me!

This morning our Mother-Daughter devotional was from the book of Malachi and talked about tithing.  I know, most people don’t look forward to “The Tithe Talk” at church because they often feel like the church is just asking for their money. So many people are struggling to make ends meet or are living paycheck to paycheck so one more place asking for their money tends to put people off.

Let me encourage you to hear me out from a different perspective.

I mentioned yesterday how the Lord took my husband and me through a season of learning and some very difficult financial times early in our marriage. Oddly enough, it was during this season….during our hardest financial times…that my husband and I first began to tithe with any sort of real commitment. It was during this time that we learned what it truly means to depend completely on the Lord as our Provider.   Another name for God is Jehovah-Jireh, which means “The Lord will provide”.

God tells us in His word to tithe, which means to give 10% of what you earn back to His kingdom. The word “tithe” literally means 10%, but of course that is the minimum, not the maximum that God wants us to give. He tells us to do this FIRST, not last. BEFORE you pay bills or buy anything for yourself.

He wants our BEST. Not our leftovers. Years ago in a Sunday School class we were discussing this and talking about how bakeries often sell “yesterday’s bread” at a discount. Sometimes it’s still ok, but often it’s old & stale.  Nothing compared to fresh, out of the oven bread.  God asked them to give 10% of their firstfruits – the best of the best. He didn’t want them to give “yesterday’s goat” – their sick, injured, or leftover animals.  We even had t-shirts made up to remind us of this.  They were great conversation starters too!  The “29:11” in the picture refers to Jer 29:11, and was the name of our class at the time. 

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I’m sure many of you are asking, “How can I do that when I don’t even have enough money to pay my bills?”, and I understand. I was there.  Or maybe you are thinking you can’t possibly tithe the whole 10% because you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.   I hear you, I really do.  I say you CAN do this.  You can’t do it by relying on your own strength or ability.  The ONLY way you do this is to TRUST HIM completely. He will provide for you.

In fact, this is the only place in the Bible where God tells us to test him!

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  Malachi 3:10

So, we tested him in this, and you know what we found? God wasn’t kidding!! He threw open the floodgates of heaven and blessed us abundantly! Every time we gave our tithe – and many times I cried as I gave because I was afraid and relying on my own ability to provide – He showed us that He had it covered! So, so many times when I wrote out our budget on paper there wasn’t enough to pay everything. But EVERY SINGLE TIME we were obedient and gave our tithe to the Lord, he blessed us!

It’s not always easy. One of the lines in the song that I mentioned yesterday says, “though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name”. There were many days that there was a lot of pain in my offering. I wanted to be a cheerful giver, but I would cry wondering if I was giving the money to the church, or to God instead of the electric company or instead of providing food for my baby.

Not ONCE in many, many months did we ever end up missing the money we gave as tithe. A surprise check would come in the mail, bills would be less than expected, someone would give us some food…..so many examples of the Lord using other people to provide for our needs.

Notice I said he provided for our needs, not all of our wants. We did without some things, embraced Ramen noodles and found free sources of entertainment.  But we never went hungry, without clothes, or without shelter. We also did not use any debt or government assistance during this time. Credit cards aren’t your savior – Jesus is! It was all God!! He alone provided 100% of our needs.

If you are in a season of financial difficulty, or even if you aren’t – I encourage you to test God in this! Start tithing faithfully, and see what happens! Do it first, at the beginning of the month, before you start paying the bills. Then watch and see what the Lord does for you during that month!  Give Him a chance!

Read Matthew 6 today – the whole chapter. It’s no coincidence that the chapter starts off by talking about taking care of the poor & needy, prayer & fasting, and then finishes with God’s promise to always take care of us. When we are faithful to give to others, God provides for us. When we trust God to provide for our needs, we allow Him to work through others that are able to be obedient in their giving. Each time someone gave us money they were doing so out of obedience to the Lord. He wants us to take care of each other but we have to give him the opportunity to work like that.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6: 25-34)

The greatest parenting book ever

The sheep aren’t in charge – the shepherd is.

This morning in our Mom-Daughter Devo we talked about Saul.  Saul did not obey God, so God took the kingdom if Israel away from him.  In fact, the words the Lord gave to Samuel for Saul in verse 28 say “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else – one who is better than you.

Ouch.

If something that is precious to you gets taken away, that is painful enough, but the Lord didn’t stop there.  He gave it to “one who is better than you”.

My daughter and I talked about her stuffed animal collection and how that would feel if I took them all away.  We also talked about how it would feel if I took them all away and gave them to someone else.  How much more would it sting if I said I was giving them to someone better than her?

We also talked about how this parenting idea of taking things away as a consequence for misbehavior is not a new idea.  God’s been doing it for thousands of years and He is the ultimate example of a parent for us to follow!  See, I’m not the only parent who does this!

But doesn’t God love each of us the same?  How can one person be better than someone else?  Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are to love everyone equally?

Yes, God does love us all the same.  However, He was taking the kingdom away from Saul to give it to someone who would take better care of it than he did. Someone who would listen and obey God. God wasn’t rejecting Saul – he could still ask for forgiveness and restore his relationship with God.  It was, however, too late to get his kingdom back.  God is a God of second (and third, and fourth….) chances, but Saul’s heart was hardened and it was time for God to take big action.

Emily said it’s just like if someone hired someone to do a job for them and they didn’t do it well.  They would get fired and the person would hire someone else.  YES! I told her she was exactly right and that happens all the time!  That’s why we work to teach her to have a good work ethic now.

This story makes me think of my own parenting and how sometimes we have to give big consequences to teach a big lesson.  It’s better for me to take away a couple of my daughter’s toys to teach her that she must take care of her things, rather than wait and let her learn that lesson when she doesn’t take care of her car, or her house.  Better to learn the lesson early when the cost is less.  Of course, we are human, so some lessons we have to learn over and over again as we grow.

I also think of the lessons God has taught my husband and me.  Very early in our marriage, we went through a very difficult financial season.  For a while, we both had great jobs and had great salaries.  We also had the wrong attitude about it all.  We acted like we deserved it all, we made some poor choices in how we spent it, and we failed to stop and remember where it came from in the first place and Who it truly belonged to.  We failed to thank the ONE who supplied our money and instead we just valued the money.

Then, we hit some major medical issues and bills came that we couldn’t pay.

Thankfully, the Lord used this to take us through a season of learning.  I can say “thankfully” because even though some of it was incredibly painful, it also opened our eyes to a new way of living – a much better way of living – that wasn’t dependent on money, but rather on HIM.  We lost a lot.  A lot.  A house, a car, and a lifestyle.  But we gained even more.  For months when we were out of work with absolutely no income, the Lord supplied for our every need through amazing ways and incredible people.  We did not go into debt, and we were never homeless.

There are SO VERY MANY stories within that season that I could tell about God’s greatness, but I’ll save those for another time.

 

This story reminds me of one of our favorite songs, “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Let me share the lyrics with you. This song has spoken to my heart through many seasons of my life.

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

CHORUS:

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

(CHORUS)

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

 

No matter what our circumstances may be, it is our choice to bless the Lord and to praise His name.  Will you choose to praise Him no matter what you are going through today?  Will you look for the lesson He is trying to teach you?  Will you see the rose in the thorns?

 

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Choosing Thankfulness

This morning I ran to the grocery store for a few things just because the forecast says the roads might be icy on Wednesday so I wanted to be prepared in case I didn’t want to get out, but still wanted to cook meals.   As I was leaving the store, it was pouring down rain.

Cold, hard rain.

Honestly, my first thought was “Oh great, I’m going to get wet with cold rain and all my bags will get wet!”.

Thankfully, it only took seconds for the Holy Spirit to fill my mind with new thoughts, and I stepped outside talking to God as I went and CHOOSING to be thankful.   I say choosing, because it’s not always a feeling, but we have to make that choice to look for the good.  Much like LOVE – we have to choose to love, even when we don’t feel like it.

“Rejoice always,pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Give thanks in ALL circumstances, it says.  You might not feel like giving thanks FOR all of your circumstances, but no matter what we all have something we can be thankful for.  Most of us have many somethings we can be thankful for.

I didn’t even run to the car.  I chose to walk.  After all, it’s just water.  Sure I got wet and cold, but it was temporary.  Today, as I walked to the car in the rain, I thought about all I had to be thankful for:

 

* The rain.  The ground, plant & animals all need it.  I thought about how many people in parts of the world would be celebrating for rain like this.

* The food that I just purchased.  Fruits & veggies.  Meat.  Healthy, nutritious food that I was able to pick out myself.  I don’t have to worry where my next meal will come from….or my next several meals.  To be honest, I’m not even worried about whether or not I will eat next week.

* The fact that 2 days before payday, I had money to buy food.

* My truck.  I didn’t have to walk to the store, but instead, I could get in the truck and turn on the heat as I drove home.

* My husband’s sweatshirt I was wearing – keeps me warm and reminds me of his love.

* The friends I have at PWOC (Bible Study group for military women/wives) – where I am taking part of this food tomorrow, and the fact that we can not only gather publically to worship God and learn about Him, but we can also post it on Facebook and invite people to come.

 

So much to be thankful for!  I hope you all will join me this year in trying to CHOOSE thankfulness, even when it’s not our first feeling.  Looking at this list, I realize I am RICH beyond measure – maybe not by society’s standards, but I’m ok with that.

Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America are “food insecure”?  That means they don’t know where their next meal will come from.  In North Carolina, it’s 1 in 4 children.   I just read that a couple days ago and I can’t get it out of my head.  I’m not supposed to.  I’m supposed to do something to help.

Do something this week for “the least of these”.  Donate goods, time, or food to those in need.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.