Monday, July 17, 2017

Devotional: Eager to Obey

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

We had a lot of people who did not speak English that came into the Department of Licensing to get driver's licenses and identification cards.  One such man came to me to have his picture taken for his ID card.  When I was finished, I told him to sit down. My intention was for him to sit in a chair in the waiting area.  With the language barrier, he took me literally.  All the sudden I was straining over the counter to see him sitting on the floor!  Using hand motions, I was able to get it across to him that he needed to sit in a chair in the waiting area instead of on the floor.  He was clearly eager to obey orders.

Paul is encouraging his readers to obey God not only when he was with them, but to continue obeying God even when he was away from them.  He wants his readers to be eager to obey God at all times.

When you read your Bible today, find something that God wants you to do and be eager to obey Him.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Devotional: Facing the Right Direction

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As a clerical employee for the Department of Licensing, it fell to me to take the photos for the driver's licenses and I.D. cards.  Most of you are probably familiar with the set up.  The blue screen, the line with the shoe print outlines on the floor and the camera.  You are supposed to stand with toes in the shoe prints on the line, facing the camera.  

The licensing examiner instructed the man to go stand on the line so I could take his picture.  I was surprised when I looked up to see the back of the gentleman.  Yes, he was standing on the line alright, but he had his back to the camera.  

"Um, sir, I need you to turn around and face the camera.  I don't think you want the back of your head  on your license", I said with a smile.

How often are we facing the wrong way in our lives?  Paul says we are to forget those things that are in the past and reach forward to what lies ahead.  We can't reach forward if we are facing backward, looking at all our failures and the things we wish we had done or not done.  This verse is powerful for helping us to stay focused and not get discouraged.  

Let's face the right direction and reach for what God has for us in the future!


Monday, July 03, 2017

Devotional: Lessons from the Pilot Car

“My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭63:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I had checked Google traffic maps before leaving home.  It indicated slow traffic between the vineyards and Burbank.  Sure enough, we got to that point and a flagger stopped us.  We waited about ten minutes and pretty soon a pilot car appeared leading a string of traffic toward us.  It wasn't long and they all passed by and the pilot car took its place in front of our car.  The sign read, "Pilot Car Follow Me".  I carefully followed behind the pilot car as he led us through the construction zone.

What if I didn't trust the pilot car to lead me safely through the construction zone? What if I had decided I didn't want to follow the pilot car?  What if I decided I wanted to forge my own path through the construction zone? What if I decided I wanted to be the leader?   I doubt it would have worked out well.  

The Psalmist says his soul follows close behind God and God's right hand upholds him.  It is so easy to want to run ahead of God instead of sticking close behind Him.  I think where I do this the most is in relation to my children.  Instead of following close behind God as He leads them in their lives, I find myself running out ahead and it always leads to me playing out every disastrous scenario there is that could go wrong as they strike out on their own in the world.  Of course this leads to sleepless nights of tossing and turning. 

I need to stay behind God and follow Him.  There are several good reasons to follow close behind, rather than run ahead or forge my own path.  

1. God knows the way.  I don't.
2. God is able to clear the path ahead. I can't.
3. If I am behind Him, I only see Him and where I should put my feet at this moment, therefore, there is no need to worry about what I can not see.  I only need to focus on Him.

This is my lesson from the Pilot Car.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Devotional: Be Tenderhearted and Courteous

"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me."
‭‭II Corinthians‬ ‭12:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Paul had a physical affliction that he couldn't find relief for. He pleaded with the Lord to heal him, but He said,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  The answer was, "No."

Those who have chronic conditions can identify with Paul. They plead with God for healing, but for some reason, He says, "No." They try many therapies and medications to find relief.

I never cease to be amazed at how often well-meaning Christians offer their opinions to those who are suffering physically or mentally when they really do not have a clue to what that person has done or tried to alleviate their suffering.  They also do not understand the extent to which they suffer.

The most insensitive advice comes from those who, while they are "well-meaning", tell the suffering person that if they have enough faith God will heal them. Yesterday I read a post on Facebook that said the following to a person who has a chronic illness:

"Why all the "need" for narcotics? It truly does not sound like it's working. I'm not going to sugar coat this for you. What are the benefits in the long run vs changing other areas in your life. YES - I'M being BOLD. God gave us health and means for health LONG BEFORE BIG PHARMA came in the scene.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Proverbs 27:6"

These kinds of comments and opinions are hurtful and discouraging to those who are doing the best they can with a difficult situation.

These well-meaning, yet misinformed Christians need to take a look at the Apostle Paul.  

1.  He had more faith in God than any of us. He was jailed for his faith, yet God did not heal him even though he begged three times for God to do just that

2.  Paul had access to the "means for health" that the above person referenced. Although Scripture doesn't specifically tell us what he did to find relief, I'm sure he availed himself of what he could, and yet it did not heal him.

God has His purposes for why He chooses to heal some and not others and He doesn't always inform us as to "why?".  Our purpose as Christian brothers and sisters is to encourage, comfort, love and pray for those who are suffering. Nothing more and nothing less. Judgment and opinions are not helpful.

"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;"

Monday, June 19, 2017

My Rambling Thoughts

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus did not come to save everyone?  I know there are those who get upset when they see something like that.  "What?  Jesus came to save everyone!  God loves everyone and He wouldn't leave anyone out!"

Take a look at this verse:

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:31-32 

Jesus Himself said that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  He directed that statement to the Pharisees and Scribes, but it still stands for today.  Jesus did not die to save the righteous.  He died to save sinners.  He came to save those who have no righteousness of their own.  He came to save those who were helpless to save themselves.

Those who think they are righteous because they do good works or light candles, or get deemed worthy by the bishop to enter the temple or follow a list of rules and commandments or many other things people do to be righteous are not the ones whom Jesus came to save.  They think they are already righteous by their deeds.  Jesus didn't come for them.

Jesus came for those who are poor in spirit, who know they can't be righteous on their own merit before God.  Jesus came for those who are helpless and hopeless before God.  One who finds their righteousness through other means besides Jesus Christ are not the ones He came to save.  However, He can change their hearts if He so chooses and make them come to realize that He is the only Way, the Truth and the Life.  At that point, they become poor in spirit and then He saves them.

Devotional: Failed Again

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:31-32 

How often do we beat ourselves over the head because we have failed once again?  We flew off the handle and said some words we regret.  We got upset and stewed because of unforeseen circumstances that have come our way.  We fret because we don't know how we will afford to live if x,y or z happens. The list of our failings goes on and on.  We begin to feel helpless, even hopeless.

Did you ever stop to think, that Jesus came to save those who are hopelessly lost in their sin?  He never came to save those who see themselves as righteous.  He came to save those who know they are hopeless to ever be righteous on their own.

When you feel helpless and hopeless to ever be able to do right, this is right where Jesus needs us to be.  He came to save the sick, the sinner that can't help him or herself.  Heaven is going to be filled with sinners saved by grace, those who were not able to be righteous on their own merit.  

When you fail once again, let it be a reminder to you that Jesus came to save those who are not able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps to be righteous.  He came to save you even while you were yet a sinner (Romans 5:8).  Let your failings remind you of Christ's great love for you.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

June 14, 2017

This has been a busy day for me.  It seems more like a Saturday then a Thursday since my husband did not go to work today due to health issues.

I have nailed lose boards on the fence, rescued my fountain pump when the hose fell out of the upper barrel and emptied all the water out on the ground, cut back my roses so they are not scratching the neighbor's car when they drive up their driveway and I have worked long and hard on getting my devotional book set up as an ePub file to be distributed to Nook, iBooks and through Lulu. I also set up next week's menus, added items that have rebates to my list and done my daily devotions.

I miss my Daisy-Pug, but it is getting easier to deal, with as time moves on, than it was over the weekend and early in the week. She was so ready to go and I just have to keep reminding myself of that.  We have many happy memories with her and many photos too.  She was a wonderful animal shelter rescue with a great personality.

Well now it is raining.  I had not expected that today.  I got to put my sprinkler system on a four day delay.  I'm not going to complain about saving money on water!

I'm settling in for a quiet evening and hoping to be early to bed tonight.  That would be wonderful.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Devotional: Life Lessons

1 Peter 2:24King James Version (KJV)

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I had the unfortunate task of taking our 20-year-old Pug, Daisy, in to be put to sleep.  She had many health problems and was most certainly suffering.  It was more painful for me to do this than it was for her.  She was sleeping soundly in my lap when the vet came in.  She never stirred except for when the needle was inserted.  Then she startled, lifted her head and went back to sleep and it was all done.
The pain of losing a beloved pet is difficult to describe.  A person on Facebook said that we suffer the pain of loss so that our pet does not have to continue suffering.  In essence, we now suffer in their place.
This illustration limps, as all illustrations do, but I was thinking about that this morning in relation to what Christ has done for us.  He suffered in our place for us so that we will not have to suffer eternally.  We are healed spiritually by His stripes, and we will be healed physically/emotionally by His stripes when He takes us home to be with him.
Yes, my illustration limps badly, but it was the idea of substitution that I wanted to get across.  We suffer loss so that our ill and suffering pet does not have to suffer.  That's as far as the illustration goes, but praise God for His substitutionary death on the cross to save us from the penalty of our sin.


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Devotional: Time Out

"The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?" After looking around at them all, He said to him, "Stretch out your hand!" And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God."
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:7-12‬ ‭NASB‬‬
I bet you thought I was going to focus on the legalism of the Pharisees!  Yes, it was something to behold.

I realized that I usually read Scripture from section break to section break. Do you do this too?  When I do this, I might miss something and in this case, I had always missed the connection between when the Pharisees became filled with rage toward Jesus and what Jesus did in response to their rage.

The text says, "It was at this time that He went off to the mountains to pray.."

Yikes!  I don't know about you, but when I am in a conflict or when the chips are falling and my life is getting rough, my first response isn't to remove myself from the situation and spend time in prayer.  I'm usually in defense mode trying to figure out how to remedy the situation as fast as I can or trying to figure out how to survive.  Jesus' first line of defense was to remove Himself from the situation and pray.

Now I realize it's not always possible to remove ourselves from a situation, but it is always possible to turn our hearts to prayer.  We can step back, slow down, be slow to speak and take a moment to pray within our heart to God for guidance and ask Him to guard our heart and tongue so we don't make the situation worse when we are in a conflict with someone.

If our circumstances (not conflict) are just getting too hairy for us, for example, money problems, too many things needing our attention, or in general, just feeling overwhelmed, we can usually find at least a 15 minute block of time where we can go find some solitude from the onslaught and spend some time in prayer before God.

This will do several things for us.
1.  It will give us time to re-center our thinking toward God.
2.  It will allow us time to take some deep breaths and relax a little.
3.  It will allow us to think before we act, so we can say or do whatever we need to with wisdom
      instead of in the heat of the moment.

Let's follow Jesus' example of how to handle tough situations...handle them with time out and prayer.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Devotional: Let The Peace of God Rule

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:15

In Colossians 3 Paul is instructing his readers on how to live in peace in the world and with each other in the church. I recommend reading the entire chapter.

Verse 15 is especially meaningful to me. It carries meaning for me in the context of the church and in the context of my personal life.

In the church, we let the peace of God rule by doing the following:

“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Colossians 3:8-10, 12-14 NASB

In the context of my personal life, to let the peace of God rule in my heart, I need to do all of the above, but there is an extra dimension for me.

As a mom of two young adults, I find myself fretting and losing sleep sometimes as I worry about their futures and their safety. There are many other things besides these that weigh heavy on my mind. It is easy to let these things crowd out the peace of God.

So what is the solution? It's right here in this verse! Be thankful. We let the peace of God rule by turning our hearts toward God in thankfulness. Every time thoughts of discontent or worries come knocking at the door, crowd them out by thinking of all you have to be thankful for.

Instead of worrying if my kids will be safe away from home, I should be thankful they have the opportunity to go and gain independence. Instead of worrying that they might get in a wreck, I should thank God for His past protection and the fact that they are good drivers. Instead of fretting over what their future will bring, I need to be thankful for the time I have had with them and thankful for the time I still do have with them now.

My mind goes down the path of looking at all the negatives and what-ifs. Thanksgiving to God brings the peace of God to my soul.  What do you worry about?  What makes you fret?  Turn those things around and find what you can thank God for instead.  Let the peace of God rule!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Devotional: Healing

Luke 4:40(NASB)

While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.

The verse above appeared in my Bible reading this past week and in the sermon at church.  I wrote in my journal beside it, "I wish Jesus were doing this today."   

Yes, I know, sometimes God does see fit to heal people today, but wouldn't it be nice if Jesus walked among us today and those of us who need physical healing could go to Him and have Him lay hands on us and heal us? That would be wonderful.  It would be wonderful for family caregivers to be able to bring their loved ones to Jesus for physical healing.  That was the reality for many during the time of Jesus' ministry.

The fact that people need physical healing points to the fact that things in this world are not as they should be.  The Fall of Adam into sin in the Garden of Eden has put a curse on the whole world.  People get sick.  Things fall apart.  While this is discouraging, we must not leave it there.  Jesus came, died for our sin and rose again so that we can have forgiveness of sins and live with Him forever in eternity in bodies that will be whole again. Yes, we might deal with pain and illness now, but we look forward to the hope of eternity.

1 Peter 5:10  After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Devotional: Divine Interruptions

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret;2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. Luke 5:1-3

We have Simon Peter with his fishing buddies washing their nets out after having been fishing.  This was how they made their living.  They didn't fish for the fun of it like so many we see out on the Snake and Clearwater Rivers here.  This was serious stuff for them.  If they didn't catch the fish, they didn't get paid and they didn't make a living.

So we see Simon Peter is hard at work.  No doubt he and his buddies saw the crowds of people and wondered what the occasion was, but instead of leaving their nets and walking over to see what was going on, they kept right on working.

Jesus saw Simon Peter's boat and walked over and climbed in.  Now if I was him, I'd be saying, "Whoa, hey dude, what are doing there? That happens to be my boat!"  What's more Jesus asked him to leave his nets and take him out a little way from land so He could teach the people.  About this time, I'd be thinking in my head, "I have work to do and this dude jumps in  my boat and expects me to take him out from shore and now I'm stuck out here and I can't get my work done!"

Then we see in verse four, this:

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

Simon Peter explains that they have worked all night and caught nothing, but to humor Jesus, he lets the nets down anyway and they catch a huge amount of fish.

 I see in this passage a couple of things.

  1.  Peter was a hard worker.  He made good use of his time and so when Jesus got in his boat and asked him to take it out a little ways so he could teach the people, Peter didn't appear to protest. His schedule could flex.  Do I spend my time working to get my chores etc. done, so that when God allows an interruption to come into my life, I have the ability to leave my work without getting ruffled, because I know I've done what needs to be done each day?
  2. Peter was focused. When Peter saw the crowds on the shore, he didn't let it distract him from his work.  He continued to work.  Do I focus on my work until it is done or do I let Facebook, the newest electronic gadget or app, or any myriad of none essential things distract me from what I should be doing? I believe this is why Peter was able to change his schedule for Jesus...he focused on his work, not on what was popular with the crowds at the time.  When Jesus interrupted him, he was able to change his schedule at a moments notice.
Being a focused, hard worker at home are two things I struggle with.  To be honest, I go in spurts.  But I do find myself getting distracted and wasting precious time.  When I do that, then when God brings interruptions into my life, I am ruffled because I'm so far behind and the interruption is going to make me further behind.  My desire is to be more focused, get more done and be ready to be flexible when those interruptions come.  

Monday, May 01, 2017

Devotional: The Holy Spirit

Isaiah 11:2 

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

In church, Sunday, the speaker was in Isaiah and he mentioned this verse along with the context but never looked at it in detail.  I am a list maker.  So when I saw a list here, I was instantly drawn to it.

The verse is located in the prophecy of the coming of Jesus in the New Testament era.  I find this list incredibly interesting.  It is the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. 

1. Wisdom
2. Understanding
3. Counsel
4. Strength
5. Knowledge
6. Fear of the Lord

Think about that.  As Christ-followers we are given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  These are things that we need as Christ-followers.  We need wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  With the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we have all these things available to us. What a comfort this is!  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Devotional: Grieve But Not As Those Who Have No Hope

1 Thessalonians 4:13(NASB)
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

We often try to avoid grieving.  It's uncomfortable.  We don't want others to see our tears.  We want life to just go on as it has and put uncomfortable things behind us.  But when we lose a loved one, sometimes the tears just come when we least expect it.  Sometimes we feel like we are weak if we succumb to them and find ourselves feeling depressed and missing our loved ones.

But the Bible says that grieving is okay.  The verse above assumes that we will grieve when we lose a loved one. We are not weak if we grieve the loss of our loved ones who have died.  No, we are NORMAL if we grieve.  It would be abnormal to not grieve. 

So, we grieve, but not like those who have no hope.  We have hope that if they were believers, we will see them again one day.  We have hope, if they were believers, that their suffering is done and they are in the presence of their Lord.  So we grieve because we miss them, but it's grief that looks forward to the future.

So how can we get through grief?  Just be with it.  When it comes, let the tears roll. Don't stuff them down. You have to feel in order to heal. God designed tears to be cleansing.  So let them come and miss your loved one with the hope that only God can give.

Marsha's Musings: His Heart Was in the Right Place

1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (NASB)

 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

I wrote a question by verse 4 in my Journible.  Verse 4 says, "...not as pleasing men, but God, who examines our hearts."

Here is the question: If you compromise to please men, can your heart be right?  Can you do the wrong thing and still have your heart right before God?  

This has serious implications.  We often hear the statement, "Well, his heart was in the right place."  Can this be said of the preacher who compromises the Word of God or waters down the doctrines of Scripture in order to please the people and make them more comfortable in the church?  Is his heart in the right place?

I think of seeker friendly churches, where many times the Gospel is watered down to make it more palatable.  Concepts like sin,  judgment, and repentance are left out of the message and God's love is emphasized.  This is only half a Gospel.  Can the hearts of these church leaders be considered in the right place or pleasing to God?  What does God think?

Do you ever ponder these things?