Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The presence of prayer

“Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack. But you must resist the devil and stay strong in your faith. You know that all over the world the Lord’s followers are suffering just as you are.” 1 Peter 5:8-9 CEV

Can you imagine what it would be like to be imprisoned because of your faith in the Lord?

I recently read an interview of two Christian women who were jailed in a notorious foreign prison. One of the things that spoke to my heart was the fact that many people sent letters to these women to encourage them but the women never received the letters. Their captors read the letters, then taunt the women by refusing to let
them see the mail.

According to one of the women, even though they never saw the letters, they were encouraged because they knew many were praying for them. They knew that the Bible verses in those letters were being read by their enemies and were impacting the lives of their captors.

It would have been easy to succumb to discouragement and defeat, but the women were able to stay strong, because they sensed the very real presence of all these prayer warriors with them in their cells, holding them up and keeping them strong.

WOW! Prayer is so necessary and important - so much more than a bedtime ritual. Through prayer, those women actually felt the presence of other believers with them in their suffering. Now, that's powerful.
Prayer is a lifeline, a palpable presence, helping those who are suffering to stay strong in their faith.
Do you know someone in prison or who is suffering for their faith? Commit to pray for them today!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Surviving Life's Storms

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

We can prepare for some things in life.

For example, Since Dan and I went through a severe ice storm in northern NY many years ago where we were without power for 6 days in the dead of winter, we take weather threats seriously.

We knew late last week that there was a chance for Hurricane Sandy to swirl over Central PA where we live. So we watched the weather for updates on her projected path. When we knew it would probably go right over top of us, we prepared by making sure we had batteries, propane gas for our camping stove and lamps, and essential food. I also drew several coolers of water for drinking and a tub full for other uses.

So far, our power has not gone out and we don't need the extra things we gathered up just in case the storm was bad. But we are among the fortunate since the news is filled with images of New York City and the Jersey coast where storm surges, wind and rain have paralyzed parts of the area and caused a lot of destruction. It could have been far worse here in our area.

Throughout our lives, we are buffeted by powerful life storms that leave us off balance or in the dark. Some of these storms come with warning signs while other storms come up unexpectedly, knocking us for a spiritual loop and threatening to undermine our faith

In all of life's storms, there are some constant truths -

1. We can't get through them by ourselves. We need the strength and support of the Lord and others to make it through. Whenever possible we should heed those storm warnings and do what we can to be ready by seeking advice or counsel and talking through our doubts and fears with those we trust. Asking for help and prayer support is essential too.

2. We need to strengthen our faith and our relationship with the Lord on a daily basis so we are prepared - at least minimally - for those unexpected difficulties.

Lord, this morning we pray for those who have been severely affected by Hurricane Sandy. May this storm help us to understand our need to prepare our hearts on a daily basis for the spiritual and emotional storms of life so we are able to stand strong through them. Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Giving our all, Monday Moments with God

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Romans 12:1 NLT*

My dearest child,

You may think that I'm asking too much when I ask that you give your whole life to me - your body, your soul, your intellect, your emotions.

But I don't ask any more of you than I demanded of myself. I gave up all of heaven's
splendor to be born in human form in a stable of all places. Have you ever tried to breathe deeply in a stable?

When I took on your form, I felt the same things you feel - the warmth of the fire, the chill of the winter air, the joy of worshipping my Father and the pain of betrayal and death. I even experienced a moment of intense, excruciating aloneness when I believed my Father could not look at me because of the sin, your sin, that I bore on the cross.

Because I love you, I will never turn my face away from you. I will never leave you alone or forsake you, no matter how much sin you believe there is in your life. I have already shouldered it all and covered it with my blood so it cannot be seen again. All you need to do is accept that as a free gift from me.

Give me all of your heart, mind, body and soul. Let me hold them in my hands. That is the best gift you can give me - a living and holy sacrifice - a gift of worship and obedience .

You will find it isn't a sacrifice at all. I will love you, hold you, comfort you, protect you and lift you up as a good shepherd that loves his sheep. I will write your name on the palm of my hands and hold you close to my heart.

All my love,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

“Tell of your joy to each other by singing the Songs of David and church songs. Sing in your heart to the Lord. Always give thanks for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20 NLV

Have you ever had a song rumble around in your head that just won't quit?

Last night a beautiful old hymn of the church got stuck there and I found myself humming and singing the words I remembered over and over again. I'm not even shure why it was there, but it just reverberated there. So in light of today's verse, I think I should share that one with you. To hear the music, click on the video link at the bottom of this post:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth, Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth! Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee; Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee. What need or grief ever hath failed of relief? Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee; Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging, Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging, Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace, Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding, Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding, Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night, Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him! All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him. Let the Amen sound from His people again, Gladly for aye we adore Him.


Joachim Neander wrote the words to this hymn in German around 1674-79. It was one of many poems he wrote and sang to the Lord as he wandered the beautiful Düs­sel River Valley during the time when he was the principal of the Düs­sel­dorf Reformed Grammar School. At that time, the valley was a narrow gorge, full of caves and beautiful waterfalls - a perfect spot to inspire such majestic words.

As he wandered there, he often held outdoor gatherings where he would share his poems and preach about the Lord. Today the valley is named after Neander and is a wide, open area after being quarried for limestone deposits. And in case your wondering, yes, the famous remains of the "Neanderthal Man" were found there in a cave originally named after the hymnist.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Too soon old, too late smart

The Pennsylvania Dutch have a saying - "We grow too soon old and too late smart."

The older I get, the more I laugh about that because does seem to be true.

Have you ever watched kids as they grow up? They seem to pass through stages in their relational development with their parents:

Age 2 - Mom and Dad know everything.

Age 5 - Mom and Dad are smart, but I really want to know for myself

Age 12 - My friends know more than my parents.

Age 16 - Mom and Dad don't know anything. Why should I listen to them?

Age 21 - I've been to college, now I know it all.

Age 25 - I'm not sure I know it all. Maybe that's why my parents did it that way...

Age 30 - Hey Mom and Dad, how did you used to do that?

Age 60 - Boy do I miss my parents. I wish I had paid more attention to the things they told me.

Often, we seem to go through similar stages in our spiritual, relational development with our Father God. When we first become Christians, everything about our relationship with the Lord is fresh and new. We want to serve him with everything we have and we eagerly look to him for answers.

But over time, that eagerness fades and we begin to fall back into our old ways of coping with life, maybe even trying to solve problems ourselves. Being a wise parent, the Lord knows we have to mature in our relationship with him until we come back to that place of total dependence, awe, respect and trust in him. That's the place where wisdom begins.

“The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD; the knowledge of the holy one is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 CEB

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How much can you carry?

"Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 CEB

Missionaries who do Bible translation work have an interesting job. In many cases, they have to create a written alphabet for a language that is only spoken. Then they have to work with the native speakers of that language to choose the right words so that their particular culture will understand the true meaning of the scriptures.

In the Konni language, spoken by a people group in Ghana, there were 5 different words for the verb, "to carry." Each word had a different meaning and was used in a different circumstance. To choose the wrong one would confuse the Konni language speakers about the real meaning of this verse.

One word meant "to carry on one's back" and was always used when speaking about carrying a baby. Another similar word meant to "carry on the hip," which referred to a small child. Since babies and young children aren't considered to be a burden in that culture, that word would have been a poor choice.

Two other words referred to carrying something light in front of you or carrying something on your shoulder like firewood or a tool. Those words would not have conveyed the true meaning of the verse either, because carrying firewood and tools were important activities - definitely not burdens as we understand them. And when we think of carrying something light in front of us, it certainly doesn't produce the mental image of struggling with a burden.

The final word meant to carry a heavy load on the head. From the time the people were children, they strengthened their necks and backs by gradually increasing the weight of the loads they carried. By the time they reached adulthood, they could carry heavy loads without problems. This was the most appropriate word to translate the verse. 
Wow! What a rich picture that gives to this verse. "Carry each other's heaviest burdens on your head and so fulfill Christ's command!"

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Moments with God

We all need affirmations - to know we're loved when we feel unloveable, to know the Lord carries us when we feel too weak to go on, or to feel the strength of his grip when we feel like we're slipping over the edge. These Monday Moments with God are dedicated to a dear friend who is in need of encouragement - to start her week off knowing the Lord will help, comfort and guide her along her way. I pray they will lift you up too.

My Dearest Daughter,

To me you are as beautiful and pure as a wooly, white lamb. As your shepherd, I will provide everything you need. I will protect you when the wolves of life attack and drive the lions away from your resting place. I know that the rushing waters of the streams frighten you , so I will find still pools for you to drink. I will lead you to lush, green pastures where you can eat and be satisfied.

Stay close to me today and follow where I lead you because I am committed to taking good care of you. If you wander too far from my sight, I will follow you and bring you back on my shoulders because you are just as important to me as the other sheep in my care.

Remember that I know you by name and each evening I look for you as you enter into the fold for a time of sweet rest and each morning, I call you out by name. Listen for my voice.

Jesus, your Shepherd.

Psalm 23:1-3; Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7; Isaiah 43:1; John 10:1-16

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green pastures. He leads me to calm water. He gives me new strength. He leads me on paths that are right for the good of his name.” Psalm 23:1-3 NCV

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pure Delight

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4 NLT

What makes you happy?

Many years ago, I read a book called Happiness Is A Choice - A Manual on the Symptoms, Causes and Cures for Depression. Written by two psychologists, the book described how to change the way we think to avoid depression. Since I was going through recurring periods of depression at the time, I was seeking happiness; freedom from the dark clouds that hung over my head.

What I learned at the time was that I needed to foster relationships - first with my heavenly Father and then with others who would hold me accountable and love me unconditionally as I changed the way I thought about myself. With the help of my Great Counselor, I learned that there were strongholds in my heart where Satan's lies held my heart hostage. Though I knew what the Bible said about me - who and what I was supposed to be as a child of God, I had difficulty believing it at the core of my being.

I wish I could say that it was an easy process. It wasn't and I still struggle at times. But it has been rewarding. My relationship with my heavenly Father is deeper than it has ever been. I have learned to "delight" in him, to seek him out to know his presence in my life - not just for the things he can do for me but for who he is. I know what it's like to be his daughter, and to know his love - even when I have spiritual temper tantrums. LOL!

As our relationship has deepened, my Father has given me my heart's desire. No, not material possessions, but a joy that comes from him that makes me feel loved, whole and at peace in my heart. And he's given me friends who care and pray for me.

Though situations look difficult around me, and by all appearances, they will get more difficult in the days to come, I can choose to be happy by burrowing in to my Father's arms and listening to his heart beat. There he will give me what I desire most - the confidence that I am loved and cared for, no matter how the storm howls outside.

So, what makes you happy?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spiritual Strength Training

“Wait for the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart be strong. Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 NLV

When women reach menopause, they are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis. But developing brittle bones really starts at a much younger age.
After we hit puberty , we begin to lose up to 1 % of our muscle and bone strength per year. Adding strength or resistance training to your workouts can prevent and even reverse the damage, according to health experts.

What makes it so effective is that when our muscles meet resistance in our workouts, such as weights or other immovable objects, there is a breaking down of the muscle fibers. But during a resting phase, new muscle fibers grow, strengthening, toning and trimming them. That's why experts recommend strength training on alternate days for the best results.

In addition to weight loss and help with diseases like arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, strength training can elevate a person's mood and help them to sleep better. No wonder doctors recommend adding strength training to our workouts, especially as we age.

But strength training is nothing new. God knew all along that we need to exercise our spiritual trust muscles to be strong and spiritually healthy.

We often come up against situations and difficulties which require us to use our spiritual trust muscles. They may even seem immovable or impossible. But trusting God through those circumstances helps breakdown our doubts and build up our faith in God's promises, just as effectively as strength training builds and strengthens muscle tissue in our physical bodies.

What's the phrase people use about physical exercise? No pain, no gain...

Father, help me to grow strong and healthy in you through the seeming impossibilities of life which stretch my trust and faith muscles. Amen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


O God, You are my God. I will look for You with all my heart and strength. My soul is thirsty for You. My flesh is weak wanting You in a dry and tired land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1 NLV

Every so often my medical doctor will order a "fasting blood test" where I'm not allowed to have anything to eat or drink after midnight before the test the next day.Since the lab opens early, I usually make plans to be there by 7:30 or 8 so I don't need to "suffer" too long without something to eat or drink.

Most of the time, I don't need a drink of water overnight, but inevitably, those pre-test nights are the ones where I become conscious of the dryness of my mouth. The nights where I cannot have anything to drink are the ones where I crave water the most.

Thankfully, that cause of "dry mouth" is easily corrected at the local convenience store after leaving the medical center!

But it would seem that a similar thing happens in our spiritual lives, We don't miss God's presence until we are going through those desert-dry places where we can't sense his presence with us. Those are the times we realize how much we need him and we begin to hunger and thirst after his presence.

As much as we shy away from those dry, desert places, they are necessary to help us remember just how dependent we are on the Lord to sustain us. We need his presence each day. Without him we become weak and unable to go on through difficult circumstances where we may find ourselves.

Life happens. He doesn't cause the difficulties, but he will meet us in them, giving us his Living Water to satisfy our thirst for him.

Lord, help me to be aware of my thirst for you - not only when I'm going through the desert places in my life, but always! Amen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hide and Seek

“Look for the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6 NLV

Sometimes it's hard to see the Lord or to feel his presence with us. But according to the Bible, he will never leave us or forsake us so that means he's always there, even though we can't see or feel him.
It kind of reminds me of the childhood game we all played at one time or another - hide and seek.

One person is "it" and counts to 100 before trying to discover everyone's hiding place. We know they are around somewhere, but we have to discover where they're hiding In the same way, there are times we have to open our eyes to discover that God's not hiding at all - he's all around us, we just weren't able to see him.

So how do we look for God when it feels like he's not there?

1. Look at the little things around us. The wonder of birds in a nest, the beauty of a sunrise after a dark and stormy night, the brilliant red colors of a maple tree in the fall. He's there in a thousand different details each day. We just have to open our eyes and hearts in order to see him.

2. Remember the things he did for you in the past. If God came through for you once, he will again! The Israelites built altars or rocks in places where God met them. Then whenever they returned to the places where he helped them before, they saw the reminders of God's works, and found the courage to trust him again.

3. Read about things God has done for others. I love missionary stories because their stories always encourage me and let me know I'm not the only one struggling. When we see what he's doing for others, we are encouraged to believe he will do those same things for us.

4. Praise him in spite of the difficulties - it will lift your heart even if the situations don't change. And you never know... it might be just the catalyst that is needed to change the circumstances where you find yourself.

5. Find someone who will pray for and support you. Sometimes we need a "God with skin" who we can touch and who touches us back with hugs and encouraging words. That's what the body of Christ is all about relationships where when one is weak, the other is strong and supportive.

My heart was heavy this morning with the overwhelming cares of this week. But as I wrote this, the sun came up, shining beautifully after several days of rain, reminding me that God's there and he will lift my spirits as I work at looking for him today.

Thank you Lord, Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Giving Blood

“Let us thank the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was through His loving-kindness that we were born again to a new life and have a hope that never dies. This hope is ours because Jesus was raised from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3 NLV

A missionary told the story of an orphanage that lay in the middle of a war-torn area. During an attack on a nearby village, the orphanage compound was hit, killing several missionaries and children, injuring many others.

As soon as they were able, a medical team arrived in the area. They assessed the injuries of the children who had survived the attack and found one child in critical condition who needed a blood transfusion right away. The doctors asked for volunteers to donate blood among the surviving children, but their requests were met with frightened stares.

Finally, one little boy reluctantly volunteered, because the child needing the transfusion was his friend. But the entire time the nurse took his blood, he lay there crying.

As the nurse removed the needle, he stopped crying. He had misunderstood the nurse's request. He thought he had to die - to give every drop of his blood for his friend to live.

In an act of loving kindness, Jesus Christ gave his blood and his life, so that we might have a new life. But even more than that, his resurrection from the dead gives us a hope that never dies!

Thank you Lord!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I am...

“It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the LORD, you are safe.” Proverbs 29:25 GNT
Do you worry about what others think of you?
That kind of thinking can lead to disastrous results including fear, low self-esteem and failure to lead a confident , productive life.
To change how you think about yourself, try this instead: As you read through the Bible, make a list of "I am" statements that reflect how God sees us.
Here's a few to get you started:
  • I am important to God - Psalm 139:16 "Your eyes saw my embryo, and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me, before any one of them had yet happened." No human being I know cares so much about me to keep track of the details of my life like God does!
  • I am in God's thoughts - Isaiah 49: 14-16 "The people of Zion said, “The Lord has turned away and forgotten us.” The Lord answered, “Could a mother forget a child who nurses at her breast? Could she fail to love an infant who came from her own body? Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you. A picture of your city is drawn on my hand. You are always in my thoughts!"
  • I am cared for - Matthew 6:25-26 " I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds?"
Now keep going to see what other verses you can find that show how God thinks about you. Post your list somewhere that you can see it each day and read over it often.
For those who are constantly overcome by thoughts and feelings of insecurity and fear, seeing yourself through God's eyes will bring healing and a sense of security in the Father's love.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spiritual "baby tickers"

"They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:31 NLT

A few weeks ago, I found out my daughter was pregnant with her eighth child. Through the wonders of technology, she had an ultrasound and found out it was another baby girl. Woohoo!

Once Allissa announced the news to family and friends, she put a "baby ticker" on her blog that shows what's going on with the baby's development each day from the beginning to the end of the pregnancy. I love visiting the blog to see just how much my newest granddaughter has grown. For example, based on Allissa's due date, today the little one is 21 weeks and 5 days old - with about 128 days to go until she makes her debut.

The ticker also tells me how much she has grown over the past few months and how she's developing. Today it said the baby weighs about a pound. Her eyelids, eyebrows and lips are in place and growing.

Wow! The closest thing we had to that when my children were developing in utero was a photo spread in Life Magazine. LOL!

As I look at the "baby ticker," I think about those Mothers who tell me they've been praying for years for one or more of their children to be "born again" into the Kingdom of God. It would be great if there was some kind of a spiritual "baby ticker" that we could look at each day to see the spiritual readiness of those we pray for. Because there isn't, we have no way of knowing how close they are to God's kingdom.

But we do have God's promises that he answers prayer. God's watching their "baby ticker" even though we might not be able to see it. He sees just how spiritually ready they are, how they are developing and what they need to be birthed into his kingdom. And he works each day through his Holy Spirit to ensure the safe delivery of those we witness to and pray for into his kingdom - even if we don't see the results yet.

Be encouraged - keep praying - don't give up!