Let’s Glory in the Morning

This is a picture my husband took of our view of the sunrise. Isn’t it beautiful God art? It may seem strange that I chose a beautiful picture and am getting ready to quote Lamentations. After all, the book was authored by a poet of Jerusalem that was lamenting the horrible destruction of his city. There is a method to the madness though…

See, the author was angry at God for not helping the Jews as the Babylonian army took over their city. I can’t blame him… I can hardly stand to read about the atrocities he saw and experienced! The book of lamentations are the result of the poet going through stages of immense grief, in a way. He experiences sadness, grief, anger, and also self-reflection. He realizes the Lord had promised to punish sinfulness and has kept His promise because:

Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean. ( Lamentations 1:8 NIV)

Isn’t it a “hard pill to swallow” when we recognize our sin? We are fortunate enough to have a Savior and a God that will always forgive us. The lamenting poet sings a new song when he remembers this about God:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22- 23 NIV

Thank you, Lord for each new day! You forgive our wrongdoings and give us reasons to glorify You anew! We love You and thank You for Your faithfulness and love. We will do our best to give You the same! Amen

Encouraging Words

Did you ever get a note of encouragement, pat on the back or some type of guidance from someone you respect? Did it make you feel energized? It can be very motivating when someone does that for you. When I was in college, I was in a group of girls that encouraged the baseball team. We took score, ran errands, shagged balls, made or bought snacks, and sent them anonymous notes and treat bags for team road trips. Why did we do this? In the beginning, it was because we were friends with cute guys on the team honestly, but in the end, we kept doing it because it was fun to give! It became habit for us to keep them motivated with prayer and encouragement. We became invested in them. We wanted them to succeed. God changed our hearts.

In Colossians, I am overwhelmed by Paul’s encouragement to the church at Colossae. I had no clue where Colossae was so I looked it up. It was in the area that is now southwest Turkey. That means whatever Paul told the Colossians had to travel about a thousand miles to get to them! That’s about the same as the distance from Roanoke, Virginia to northern Maine. Doesn’t it show you Paul’s heart for them? He was on mission, meaning this was not about him doing a good thing; He was invested in their lives and spiritual progress! I love verses 9-13 of the first chapter, Paul tells them how much he cares by letting them know he is praying for them to mature as Christians Here is part of Paul and Timothy’s letter:

We have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9b-12

It crossed my mind that someone who knows and loves me may have prayed a prayer like this for me. What a gift for someone to do for another! This is a prayer that will remind me…It is NOT about me but what Jesus’ love in me wants for others. Paul knows this and pours his heart out to the Colossians. Something I noticed that is cool…all the “fruit” that was in there. Paul is describing what their faith’s fruit should look like…being filled, living worthy, pleasing Him, growing…these are all action-words or verbs. Things happen when you fully live in Jesus Christ! This letter has no doubt encouraged followers for years and set a great example for us to continue what he started. Can I tell you a little secret?…Everyone needs encouragement. Everyone!

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for being our biggest encourager. Remind us to cheer on others, because we all need it. Like Paul, we ask that You hear our prayers to be closer to You but also to help others in their walk. You are so faithful. Thank you for using Paul to further Your kingdom and to set a good example for us. We can see, in his writing, that he loves You so much! We love You too!

GROW work:

Pick three people to encourage by text, Facebook message, letter or email. Let them know you are praying for them. I promise you both will be encouraged!

As always, love and prayers to you,

Tina

What’s In Your Library?

If I could go back thirty years and start a new career, I would be a reporter. All people are interesting! Everyone has a story to tell. I would want to know what my subject was like as a child, who in their life influenced them the most and what they live for and why. What do they regret? Do they know God? Have they been changed by God’s Word? Our lives are shaped by so many experiences, yielding life lessons learned. Our experiences could fill volumes of books.

If we did put all of this knowledge and experience and into books, we would have a sort of “life library.” Then, we could check out any of the books at any time and re-read them. That begs the question, “Would we want to?” Is it worth opening some of the books again? David would say so. He was appreciative of God’s provision for him. This is what he would tell us to do…

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV

Checking out those stored away “books” can make us grateful for all the people that He allowed in our lives. Great teachers, loving family, shepherding pastors and sweet friends are all blessings from God. Trials, although painful, can also be a reason for gratefulness. They can remind us of how God carried us through impossible situations and that is worthy of praise!

Dear Father,

We thank You for your plan for our lives. We thank You for being with us in all of our trials and helping us through them, knowing we couldn’t get through them in a way that honors You, without You.Thank you for our life library that helped shape us. Please continue to infiuence us for Your good.You are a good Father and loving God. We love You so much!Amen

GROWwork:

  1. Think back on your experiences. What person, pastor or event was instrumental in bringing you to Christ? If possible to do so, thank them.
  2. Write a prayer of thankfulness to God. See how many things you can think of to praise Him for.

Love and prayers to you all,

Tina

The Hope of Glory

Life can be tough sometimes. We use lots of time and energy handling our daily battles. So much so, that we sometimes lose sight of the big picture God has of our lives. We focus on the here and now because we sort of have to. Things of this world will compete, or war, for our attention. Trials threaten to take our hope. In an actual war, you don’t know if your victory will come. You fight and hope your side wins in the end. You know there may be many battles to get through, but keeping your eye on the hope of glory at the end will sustain you for a little while.

As a follower of Jesus and a fighter in God’s Army we have eternal hope every day. Jesus already won the victory…AND He is there to help us through every battle, every day, all day long.

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord,    and he answers me from his holy mountain. Psalm 3:3-4

It doesn’t mean we will win every battle, because we are human and the enemy is after us and wants to squash our Hope. Also, God allows trials for our good and we have to trust Him. We have a reason to look up and smile or drop down to our knees and be thankful for the ending we already know. The real Hope of Glory is guaranteed:)

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for who You are to us, our friend, our guide, our teacher, our Hope. Speak to us please as we seek You for comfort and guidance in our trials. Your plan has guaranteed a wonderful victory , but as humans we do struggle at times to lift our eyes to You. You are our Hope and Glory. Our Victory! Lead us as You will and we will give You the praise for all of it, even the trials. We know that You know exactly what You are doing and that You are doing it for our good. We love You so much! Amen

GROWwork:

In your journal, write down a trial you are going through, big or little. Write down the things You need from God to get through it. Write a prayer to Him asking Him for what You need. Don’t worry about it looking pretty or neat,. Just write from your heart. Prepare to have your joy restored with His love for You.

Disclaimer: If you are like me, you may try to figure things out yourself first. I do that more than I care to admit:)

I love You with the love of our Lord,

Tina

Being a Leader

In elementary school, teachers often pick “line leaders” for the day. Children will take on the responsibility of leading classmates where they should go, like to the gym or cafeteria and such. The line leaders take on a responsibility that affects where others end up. This is a very basic model of leaders in the church. In a school, the teacher is the leader of the classroom and picks leaders who will set a good example for others to follow. In a church, the pastor and staff choose members of the church to take leadership roles in the church. God chooses all of us to be leaders, though. Leaders of people to Him.

Recently, I admitted to my friend that I didn’t feel confident enough in my knowledge of the Bible to lead others to the Lord. Yes, I feel called to write about Him, but to actually talk to strangers or acquaintances that don’t know the Lord… and lead them to confess their sins and choose Jesus as their Savior? It scares me! I guess deep down for years I knew I should be doing that, but I wasn’t. If I was a line leader for heaven, would anyone get there because I led them there? Just being transparent.

After He rose from the grave, but before He went to heaven, Jesus gave the disciples a duty:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

He told them to go and make more disciples. This verse tells me that, as disciples, we, too, are responsible for what we have learned . What an honor! He trusts us to tell people the most important things they will ever hear, that God loves them and sent His son to die for them so we can live with Him in heaven. Everything we have learned from God’s word, pastors, Sunday school teachers, evangelists and so on, is not meant just for us; it is meant to be shared. We are called to be leaders, knowing that:

Being a leader is more about following God’s leading than being in charge.

Dear Lord,

You are just so, so good. We are so imperfect, but still You want to use us, as different as we are, with different gifts, to spread Your Word. We are willing to be better disciples if You will show us how. Please speak into our hearts what You will have us do to further Your kingdom. Whether at work or school , at a friend or family’s house, give us opportunities to tell others what we have been blessed to learn about You. Amen

GROWwork:

This section is devoted to following through with today’s devotional theme. I would suggest journaling what God shows you as we study His Word together. It can be a great tool for growth!

Write in your journal or, if you prefer, consider the following:

What opportunities might you have to tell others about Jesus this week? How can you(we) set an example of Him to others? How can your “leading by example” help in leading others to follow Him?

A Life Full of Joy

I have been reading about Paul’s joy in the book of Corinthians. His joy was alive and thriving amidst unbearable suffering. I am not that strong. Paul wasn’t either. He depended wholeheartedly on Jesus. We may have some pretty dire circumstances, but Jesus says that:

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:10-12 NIV

In the chapters surrounding these verses, Jesus was preparing His disciples to live without Him, because He was going to the cross. I can imagine they were scared and sad. He tells them to keep His commands and remain in His love and thereby, His full joy. Not joy that fills them partially, not joy that depends on emotion, and not joy that we can find ourselves. Jesus told the disciples where and how to be filled with His joy so they would be complete. In 2Corinthians, something was threatening Paul’s joy. He had a “thorn in the flesh” that he wanted taken away. When he asked Jesus three times to remove it, Jesus told him,

“My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8a NIV

I love His response to being told “no” by Jesus:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8b-10 NIV

He readjusts his reasoning since he can’t have what he wants. It is like he said to himself…”Okay then, if Jesus won’t change my circumstance, I will change my thinking. Jesus enough for me. If He allows this suffering, then I will boast of His power to get me through it!” Paul found the way to be joyful. It wasn’t by getting what He wanted, but by readjusting his focus and realizing:

Weakness is an opportunity to boast of the strength of the Lord! Trials are opportunities!

One more verse about enduring trials. This verse in James tells us to persevere so that we mature. Jesus always does things fully, completely, eternally, perfectly. He wants us to mature. We need trials to do that. I love this verse in James:

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4 NIV

Dear Father,

Thank You for Your plan. We tell You that all the time, but the joy that comes from it keeps making us say it. We want to live a life of joy, knowing that we can only do that with Your power and strength in us. Your grace really is sufficient! Live in us and give us so much of You that the world will notice and want You. Despite our trials, we will rejoice in Your plan for us. because we trust You! We love You so much! Amen

GROWwork: Think of your trials. How would Jesus want you to see them? How can you share with others how He is helping you? Look for opportunities. But first, go straight to God’s Word and seek His wisdom and voice. He is ever present and never wrong:)

Love and prayers to all of you!

Tina

Not just a Sunday Soldier

Did you sing this when you were little? Maybe in Vacation Bible school? I used to love this song. Now I love its message.

I’m in the Lord’s Army song…

Verse-I may never march in the infantry

Ride in the cavalry 

Shoot the artillery

I may never fly o’er the enemy

But I’m in the Lord’s army! Yes Sir!

Chorus- I’m in the Lord’s army! Yes sir!

I’m in the Lord’s army! Yes sir!

Verse- I may never march in the infantry

Ride in the cavalry

Shoot the artillery

I may never fly o’er the enemy

But I’m in the Lord’s army! Yes sir!

Over and over, in his inspired writings, Paul speaks of suffering, almost like a badge of honor. He boasts of his trials only to boast of God. In his letter to Timothy, he invites him to join the Army of Christ Jesus, who knows what suffering means. Our goal is to please our officers, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV

A prayer for today…

Dear God,

We are all called to active duty in Your army. We have our assignment to be visible expressions of Your love. Deploy and equip us Lord, to be more like You than we are ourselves today. Give us Your strength, patience, courage, blessings and mercy…whatever we need to be to show others what You are like. We love You! Amen.

Being a Child

This morning I woke up with a killer headache and backache Wouldn’t it be fun to be a child again with no aches, pains or worries? That train of thought made this verse super meaningful today. Jesus tells us He wants us to be like children, in our own mind.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18: 3-4

Three verbs that stick out here are “change”, “become” and “take.” We change, we become, we take. We get to choose. When we do so, we are revealing who we follow. If we follow the world, we might have the mantra, “Exalt yourselves so you look great.” But our value system is different when we follow Jesus. If we follow Him, we happily, humbly, like a child, follow Him.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  1 Peter 5:6

The image comes to mind of a child lifting his arms to his parent to be lifted up and carried. That child loves and trusts his father as his authority. That is how beautiful of a relationship we can have with Jesus! He will pick us up and carry us when needed. He knows all of our needs and will supply us. He listens well, cares deeply about our souls and our eternity. There is great peace in humbling ourselves. And who doesn’t need more peace?:)

Dear Father,

You are a good Father. We are so happy to be Your children. Thank You for making a way that we could live with You in our “forever home” of Heaven. Thank You for Your Word that comforts us, when like a child we feel afraid or uncertain. Like a child, lift us up under Your authority. Protect us from things that are no good to us. Please take our hands and guide us to where we need to go and what we need to do for You. We love You! Amen.

GROWwork- Questions to consider…

What are some things that God does for us that are similar to what our earthly parents do? What are the things that He can do for us that no one else can? As God’s child, what character traits of His do you want to take on?

Love and prayers to You all. Have a great weekend!

Tina

How Much Room?

In our world, materialism is rampant. Bigger is better, faster is better, more expensive is better, and newer is better. Jesus agrees… IF the thing we are talking about is the room we give Him in our lives. Our Savior came to us in a manger because there was no room in the inn for Him. I am reminded that it is up to us to offer Him all the room we have. (By the way, can you imagine being the innkeeper who turned down the Savior of the world? Later, how would you feel? ) As followers of Jesus, we never want to deprive Him of room He needs, but sometimes, I think we do deprive Him. We give Him less space than He wants, which is a Supersize portion.

When you go to a fast-food joint, (faster is better), the worker will ask you, “Do you want to supersize that?” or “Would you like a large for just fifty cents more?” They are trained to get the most out of us. They are a business that thrives on our asking for more. Our relationship with Jesus also thrives on us asking for more… of HIM. Our desire needs to be supersized because He is! In Psalms 33:5 ESV, these words spoke of His fullness.

“He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.”

Full. Full goodness. Full righteousness. Full justice. Anything that Jesus, God or the Holy Spirit does, they do in a big, meaning very full, way. Here’s part of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. He wanted them to really grasp the fullness of God.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19

The thing is…we cannot fully comprehend God’s fullness, but we can still ask Him for it, so we serve Him with a full heart. It is a simple but profound concept that He can live in us so that we do things fully for Him. We can be dedicated, consistent and fully loving when He is in our hearts. We fill our stomachs, gas tanks, refrigerators and pantries. Why not keep our hearts full too?

Dear Lord,

You are so full of awesomeness that our minds can’t think it; our words can’t explain it; our prayers cannot express it and our hearts cannot fathom being so full of You. Please take up as much room as You need so that we may do Your will better, and fuller. All we know is that You are infinite and fullness comes naturally to You. Thank You for making a way that we could live with You in us. We love You so much! Amen

GROWwork: Read Ephesians 3:17-19, but insert “I” where it says, “you.” I just tried it and it reads like a plea for God to fill me with all He can. Why settle for less? Let’s ask for more of Him:)

Love and prayers to all!

Tina

The Gift of Time

When my daughters ask me what I want for Christmas, I can never think of anything I want, so I just say, “I want to spend time with you.” I must be getting old, because my answer sounds like something my Dad used to say to me when I asked him the same thing. I buy him nice presents anyway, and he likes them, but he never LOVES them as much as just being with us. He loves our gift of time.

Our Father in Heaven wants the same thing, togetherness! When we ask Jesus what He wants of us today, He may likely say, “I want your presence. Come be with me for awhile.” To Jesus, our presence is a present. You know how the more you hang out with someone, the better you get to know them? That’s how it is when we spend time with Jesus. We get to know Him better.

Now, He already knows us, knows what we are thinking or getting ready to say, so we don’t have to even talk a lot. We can be still and just bask in His presence. Coming to Him on purpose just because we know that’s what He loves, is a gift to Him.

Something else that might be on Jesus’ gift list is service to the needy. Over and over in the Bible, we are commanded to love others. In the verse below, He makes it clear that we need to love them by taking care of them. Jesus did that, and still does that. He answers needs. He is a giver! We are to be like Him, with His heart for others:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

Dear Jesus,

Your birthday is coming up. What an awesome chance for us to give You gifts! We can never repay or earn the gift of eternal life You bought for us with Your blood. We can give others gifts in Your name though. You tell us, by doing that, we are giving them to You! We can do that! Remind us how much others need the gifts of time and love or other physical needs. Fix our eyes on the eternal so we don’t cling to our own material gifts so tightly. Lead us to share them. We love You so much! Amen

GROWwork: In the next few days or week, pick three people to love on by sending a card, buying some groceries or just spending time with them. That may be the biggest need of all, as so many people are lonely, especially on holidays. If we ask Jesus for opportunities, He will send them. Be on the lookout! Imagine that it is Jesus You are serving this week. I will do the same. Giving feels much better than getting but sometimes I forget.

Love and prayers to all of you,

Tina