Receiving Jesus

Posted by admin on January 2, 2015 under Encouraging Words, Journey Through John | Be the First to Comment

I woke up early, determined to start my day with Scripture reading and prayer.  So I reread some journal entries from a special retreat last summer with Soul Shepherding ministry leader Dr. Bill Gaultierre–the retreat where I heard this word from the Lord: “Be Christ to your husband.”

Since that retreat, I had surgery to remove a possibly cancerous tumor from my left leg (but it was not cancer, thank You, Lord), then hospitalization for cellulitis in that leg, an allergic reaction to antibiotics that sent me to the ER, and numerous doctor visits to try to close a deep hole from the incision.  Meanwhile, my husband suffered increasing disability from spinal compression, was in the hospital nearly a month after spine surgery, my dad fell and broke his hip, and my sister discovered her Stage IV cancer.  We also celebrated in subdued fashion Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

How did I deal with all this?  By the Lord’s grace, I relied on Him for a good measure of strength and patience, but not all.  I also turned back to Egypt, to food for comfort, and gained a good deal of weight.  I spent mindless time sitting around in front of the TV or the computer.  Now I have to get back in a program. But I need more than a program.  I need more than a miraculous healing of the hole in my leg or the holes in my heart.

I need You, Lord.

How often I have read these words with amazement:  “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him.  He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” John 1:10-11

But, truth be told, I too, His own, do not always recognize Him or thank Him for His Presence, for His creating, saving work in my life. I do not always receive Him.  Instead, I suck in the world and try to fill myself with its emptiness.  Yet I am Your child, Father, and You are always with me.

Heavenly Father, cleanse me anew today.  Fill me with Your Spirit, with Your HPIM0146.JPGgrace and truth, Lord Jesus.  Make me a fit residence for my King.  Let me receive You in a new way in this new year, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Oops!

Posted by admin on January 7, 2013 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

The number on the digital scale flashed up at me–Oops!  Even though I worked out on the treadmill in the icy atmosphere of the garage, those two fig bars and the extra handful of nuts confronted me. Not to mention the bread sticks and salty soup at the Olive Garden.  Or the extra piece of cheese.  Or . . . .

I wrote down every calorie I consumed, but  I missed my weight loss goal for the New Year.  Alas!  I was too confident, even cocky. 

I have lost 80 lbs., donated my plus-size clothes to charity, and trashed a chocolate cake that tempted me.  But I still ate too much during the holidays. 

That ominous verse reverberated in my head: “Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12 HCSB)

For the past two weeks, I let go of my support system–the weekly report and phone call with my weight loss counselor.  I can do this on my own, I thought.  As the days progressed, I regressed from taking thought to being thoughtless.  I lost my focus on the Lord, self-discipline, and healthy, balanced living.  Celebration turned to self-indulgence, self-pity, and self-deprecation.  Self, self, self, the prison of self.

Like a toddler who has fallen on her head, I can only crawl back to the Father.  Take my hands, Abba.  Help me up.  I can walk again with Your guidance.  With my eyes on You, I can reach the goal.

Some time in the future, when I lose all my fat, I won’t need to report in every week to a counselor.  My healthy habits will be more habitual.  But I will always need a support system of family, friends, and wise counselors–and I will always need to rely on my Daddy.

Maybe you too are experiencing frustration over goals, resolutions, habits, sins, and failings. 

The Lord is compassionate.  “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.  God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13)

What is that way of escape?  The renewal of our hearts and minds.   

“Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. . . put on the new self who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator. . . And let the peace of the Messiah control your hearts.  Be thankful.” (Colossians 3:2,10,15)

Ah, that is the key.  Be thankful.  Be content.  The Lord is in control.  God-power, not just will-power.  I am satisfied in Him. 

So be it, Father, so be it.  Amen. 

 

      1. Kids Sing For Every Prison There's a Door
  a song about the way of escape!

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

Posted by admin on June 21, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

A Guest Devotional by Deborah Davis

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I have sung that song over and over through the years; it always brings me comfort. Yes, the Bible tells God’s love for me.  But I also know the love of God through my relationship with Him.  A real and tangible relationship…

When I first read the Bible, I learned who God is, what He has done, and what He desires of me.  However, as I continued to read the Bible daily and meditate on His Word, I came to know God Himself.  I know Him as my Friend, my Lord, my Comforter, my Shelter, my King, my Strong Tower, my Counselor, my Lover, my Savior, my Refuge, my Strength, my Provider, my Victory, my Portion, my Deliverer, my Very Present Help in Time of Need…and so much more!

Do you know God or merely know about Him?   We can only know God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

The Bible says that all have sinned.  The consequence of  sin is eternal separation from the holy God.  “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) 

Jesus Christ, God’s gift to us, was nailed to a cross in payment for our sins. Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice by dying in our place.  At the same time,  He demonstrated the incredible mercy and love of God.  “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  Then He rose from the dead and ascended to His Father.  He is preparing a place in Heaven for all who believe in Him.

Here is the way to God: 

  • Admit to yourself and to God that you are guilty of sin and undeserving of His love.
  • Trust in Jesus Christ as the One who purchased forgiveness for your sins with His own blood.
  • Thank God for accepting you into His family.

       “God, I know I’ve sinned against You and deserve eternal separation from You.  I put my trust in Jesus and the price He paid for the forgiveness of my sins.  I declare that, from this day forward, Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior. Thank you, Father, for accepting me into your family and providing an eternal home for me in Heaven.”

The Bible says, “…to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

It has been twenty years since I received Jesus Christ into my life, and God has remained faithful.

 “For I have loved you with an everlasting love… God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life…Never will I leave you or forsake you… He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it.”

I have been totally changed through God’s love relationship to me.  I am not the person I used to be.  Knowing and walking with God has given me eternal purpose, significance, direction, hope, assurance, love, mercy, grace, and peace.  I know Him through His Word, and I know Him by experience. 

Jesus loves me, this I know!

     Listen to Lela Satterfield’s song about God’s love and forgiveness: 

      1. The Cross On Jesus' Back

Their Worm Dieth Not

Posted by admin on June 6, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

How Does Your Garden Grow?

As my granddaughters like to say, it was “Icky!”  I washed every vegetable from the garden by hand, sprout by sprout, leaf by leaf.  But now the white pulp of boiled worm floated to the top of the pot.  Disgusting.  

“Their worm dieth not,” I muttered to myself, quoting Jesus in Mark 9:44.   

Worms!  Worms in Scripture  are depicted as destroyers, spoiling manna (Exodus 16:20), bringing  judgment (Deuteronomy 28:39), and consuming the dead (Job 21:26).  King Herod was “eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:23).  

Even the tough old prophet Jonah, delivered from the whale’s belly, was defeated by a worm.   

Jonah hated the Ninevites, ruthless Assyrian conquerors who boasted of  cruelty to prisoners of war.  He ran the other way when  God commanded,  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it.” (Jonah 1:2)   Jonah didn’t want them to repent.  They deserved to be wiped out.  Why would God give them a second chance?  

But after three days and nights inside a hungry whale, Jonah could only obey.  He walked through town, preaching fire and brimstone.  Revival erupted. “The men of Nineveh believed in God.  They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth–from the greatest of them to the least.”  The king himself repented.   

Jonah was incensed.   What if God fell for this repentance act?  What if He forgave them?  

“Please, Lord,” he prayed, “isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place.  I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.” (Jonah 4:2)  

But God asked:  “Is it right for you to be angry?”  

Jonah ignored the question.  He had delivered God’s message: “In 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown.”  Now he deserved to see it happen.   So he camped out on a hill to watch the fireworks.   

God, however, merely appointed a plant to grow up, a lovely vine to give  Jonah some shade.  The prophet was as pleased as punch with that vine. 

However, the next morning God sent a worm to destroy it.  Scorching desert winds battered it, and it withered.   With no shade to shield him from the relentless sun,  Jonah nearly passed out.  He so angry with God that he wanted to die. 

Then God questioned His prophet:  How could he care more about a plant than people? Should the Lord Himself not care about a whole city, with thousands of  innocent children and animals?   

We do not know Jonah’s answer.  Did he repent?  Or did the worms of prejudice, hatred, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, and jealousy eat him up, destroying his relationship with God and his ministry?   

Jesus said, “If your hand causes your downfall, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell–the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  It is better to cut off your wayward foot and to enter life lame; it is better to gouge out the evil eye than to be thrown into hell with two eyes. (Mark 9:44-46) 

The worm of sin will not die on its own.  Like the lizard of lust in The Great Divorce*, the worm pleads with us to give it time.  It may look like it is sleeping and behaving itself–but, all the while, it is gnawing.  When we try to turn over a new leaf, we find a worm on the other side.  Cut the worm in half, and you have two.   The worm must be crushed, or it will bring us down.

“Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.  All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness.  And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32)

Indeed, one worm per pot is too much.   

Lord, rid me of presumptuous sins–actions, thoughts and attitudes–that continually grieve Your  heart.  You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, and rich in faithful love. You shield me from my  folly. You search my heart.  Pluck out, dear Lord Jesus, the worm of sin.  Let me examine myself and not others.  Bring me to true repentance.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and Your love, so that my life will glorify and please You.  Amen.  

“What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” 
 
      1. Kids Sing Nothing But the Blood
  from the children’s musical Pilgrim’s Progress

* The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

Good Fences

Posted by admin on May 20, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

“Good fences make good neighbors.”-Frost

Every spring in New England the first objects  squeezed through the frigid earth are rocks.  The muddy fields are dotted with these “outcroppings” which have to be dug up before anything can be planted. 

Farmers once used this bounty to build handsome houses and barns.  They piled rock on rock to create low stone walls dividing field from forest.   Such fences were no protection from predators, but they did mark boundaries.  That was important to landowners who had claimed and tamed the wilderness for their own.

Many of those rock walls and houses still stand today.  That was the  kind of shelter and stability I longed for as a child, moving  from place to place, without parents.  Fear and loneliness drew nightmarish pictures in my head.  Sometimes I dreamed I was living in a three-cornered room–not a triangle but a rectangle with one wall missing.  A barren shanty that hung out over the street.  I cowered in one corner because I couldn’t get out and a monster might come in! 

I still don’t like to leave things open-ended.  Shut the door.  Closure, please.  Bring me inside and let me know what’s happening.  Show me the boundaries, and I will know where I am.  

Ezra and Nehemiah recognized this need for boundaries.  Jerusalem had been conquered, and only a remnant remained to mourn their losses.  The city walls were shattered; the Temple lay in ruins.  Their culture, faith, and God were mocked on every side.  Almost nothing was left to remind them of their hope and heritage.

The last thing their enemies wanted to see was the city walls rise again and the Temple rebuilt.   But “the Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus of Persia” to release the captive Jews from Babylon.  (Ezra 1:1b)  After 70 years in exile, they headed home.  Ezra and Nehemiah rallied them to restore both the walls and the house of worship.  Then they discovered a treasure: the ancient scrolls containing the Word of God. The people stood all day at the dedication ceremony as the entire book of the Law was read aloud.   They wept when they realized how far they had wandered.  They repented and vowed to love and obey the Lord once more. 

This is such a season of rebuilding in my life.  It is time to remove “rocks”–attitudes and behaviors that make me stumble–and, by God’s grace, turn weaknesses into strengths.   It is time to restore boundaries and ask God to repair broken walls.  It is time to restore the temple of praise in my soul.  I cannot do any of this by will-power, but the Spirit intercedes for me.  I have a hope and a heritage to share.

What needs to be rebuilt in your life?  Have boundaries broken down?  Has the enemy invaded?  What rocks have surfaced that need to be dug up?  What walls must be restored, what secret places in the heart need repair?  “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.” (Philippians 2: 12b, 13) 

If you belong to Jesus, you have a hope and a heritage to share.  

“For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.  To You, my strength, I sing praises, because God is my stronghold–my faithful God.”  (Psalm 59:16b, 17)

Father, You never give up on me.  You are at work in my life and my world.   You made me Your child through the sacrificial death of Your Son Jesus for my sins.  Through His resurrection, I am raised to new and eternal life.   Your eternal Word and faithful love are my foundation.  Build up the boundaries of my life again.  Restore what was lost. Give me courage to say “No!” to distractions and doubt and “Yes!” to Your life-giving Spirit.  Complete Your work in me and through me to the praise of Your glory. 

Amen.

Note:  In 2002 I wrote an exciting kids’ musical Built on the Book, based on the often-neglected stories of Old Testament heroes Ezra and Nehemiah.  Music from the play will soon be available on this website.