Devotionals - Spiritual Fertilizer
"It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" Matthew 4:4
Now that's some real food for thought. God wants us to grow spiritually. So, each week, I plan on posting at least one devotional. I would like to do it every day, but I must be truthful, sometimes I can barely keep up with my own daily scripture reading. So, I am being ambitious by shooting for once a week during this time of year. As things slow in winter, perhaps I will get a chance to share more of what my sweet Lord is teaching me in my life.
To ponder on the Lord's day, may I suggest a reading from my 16 year-old son's blog: Through Faith Alone
March 12, 2016
Overflowing with Hope
As I wrote in my prayer journal today, I reached the end of the pages and read the verse of the day. Usually I do this first, but I was really pressed for time and wanted to chronical my concerns of the day for the they were weighing very heavily upon me. My sixteen-year-old has been seeking an oppotunity to participate in a foreign mission to a Spanish speaking country. I am not against this, in fact, it brings me great joy to see him striving to follow God and to determine what will become his vocation. I believe he is uniquely gifted in speaking and the Lord, from a very early age, had his plan laid out. It has always seemed he might be a pastor or bible teacher. His passion to share the gospel and teach the scriptures is great; his knowledge vastly growing each day as he devours the word of God. This is not the problem. The truth is, many of the mission opportunities for young people are either a waste of money or are with an unknown group of people going to a questionable area without proper guidance. So many things have been running through my head and heart. How do we know this is a safe trip? Lord, how can we trust these people we have never met? After praying about this for some time, my husband and I determined that at least his first international mission trip should be with someone we either know personally, or with an organization affiliated with our church giving. It is difficult to describe all of the situations we experienced as he sought this trip. To sum it up, God was definitely in the details. We had said no to everything for months. Then, Pierce decided to go back onto the Internation Mission Board website to scour it for any missed opportunities. There it was! A program which allows SBC affiliated students to apply was still open and offering several different opportunities to participate. One of those opportunities was to Ecuador, a Spanish speaking country. Pierce speaks Spanish and has amazing taught it to himself (homeschooler). He even understands much of the grammar that many never learn - part of God's plan. Anyway, the afternoon he discovered the trip was the last day to apply. He hurried to complete the very lengthy questionnaire giving all his references. Then we had to wait to see if he was selected.
Now, during all this time, I had been wrestling with myself about his desire to go abroad. I wanted to wait on God to give us wisdom on which trip was best and safest. The other options just did not seem right. The day after he complete the questionnaire, I was writing in my prayer journal and read this verse:
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope." Romans 15:13 NIV
This was such an immediate comfort to me. I realized several things that I knew, but did not take to heart in my present situation.
In this verse that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Church, we see that God is the God of hope. He was desiring the Roman Church to overflow with hope. He was encouraging them to trust in God so that as they were trusting in God, he would fill them with all joy and peace SO that they would overflow with hope.
It reminded me of several essential truths that we must stop and remind ourselves in a time of uncertainty; a time when we are seeking direction from God, but it hasn't yet been made clear.
That first truth is so simple. GOD can be trusted. We should take great comfort in knowing our heavenly father can be trusted. The scriptures tell us to seek wisdom and God will give it to you. James 1:5-8 tells us: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Alrighty then. I asked God for wisdom, I should have been more patient in waiting on the answers. I know this, but just needed a reminder.
Secondly, I serve a God of hope. My hope is utilmately in His promise throught Jesus Christ and the life we receive when we place our trust in him for our salvation. He paid the price we could never pay. He lived a perfect life, took on our sin and was the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Through his death, burial and ressurection, we are able to be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life in heaven. This my friends is the ultimate hope. The only hope we really need. All the troubles of this world will pass away, but the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord is forever.
Lastly, he can fill us with all joy and peace SO THAT we will overflow with hope. Who wouldn't be hopeful if they were filled with all joy and peace, right? We can come to the Father through Jesus and ask that he fill us with joy and peace. Joy is so much more than just happiness. Happiness is a temporary feeling that is determined by our circumstances. Joy is so much more. It is not dependent on our external situation, but rather a steadfast contentment in our life because of our future eternity. Peace is also something we can posses no matter our present situation in life. It is much like joy in that it does not depend on our temporary station in life. In fact, the scriptures tell us this about not having peace and being anxious.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Wow! The scriptures instruct us not to be anxious, but instead to take our cares, our praise and our worship to God. It tells us that if we are careful to do this, the peace of God, which surpasses all undersing, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This result is dependable and sure. If we want real peace, wringing our hands won't give it us. That can only come from Christ Jesus.
How many of us after receiving bad news, are quick to pick up the phone and call someone to tell them, maybe even complain to them, about our situation? Why not go to God first to thank and worship him, sharing our troubles with him before running to others who cannot change the situation? I am not saying there is never a place to immediately call someone upon learning of a difficult situation. But usually, that phone call can wait until we have taken our burden to the Lord and thanked him for being trustworthy to answer our prayer according to his will; trusting that his will is best and being okay with whatever the situation is BECAUSE, we have an eternal hope. Then we are fit to tell someone else about the situation. What a testimony when others see us truly trusting Him and living out the scriptures!
I am guilty of not oing this at times. I sacrifice real peace for that momentary complaint session with whoever is on the other end of the phone. When I hang up, I feel empty and no better than before I made the call. Sometimes, when our heart is in despair about the events of the moment, we need to stop and remember what God we serve and take hope in him.
Back to my lesson. I am reminded to trust God and not fret over anything. No matter what happens on this Earth, it is momentary. Eternal life with Jesus awaits me and no one change take that away. So, what do I really have to worry about?
Finding True Wisdom: In a World Full of Imposters
May 21, 2018
In today's world, there are innumerable resources to help you become wiser and happier... but with all these resources, they seem to have failed to produce a wiser, happier society. I mean, who doesn't want to live their best life now, right? What gives?
Before we spend any amount of time dissecting how to live, I believe we need to discuss how we think. What is wisdom? What does it really mean to be wise? Who is the proper authority on this subject?
Webster's Dictionary tells us this definition of wisdom:
1: a: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight
b : good sense : judgment
c : generally accepted belief
challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians
d : accumulated philosophical or scientific learning : knowledge
2 : a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
3 : the teachings of the ancient wise men
Great! I think we can all agree on these things. But measuring success in any of these areas is very subjective because the above definition fails to provide insight into what might be deemed "good sense" or "wise course of action". Who decides what are the standards anyway? How can I know that I am being wise?
The world would offer a litany of books and resources to gauge your aptitude and engage your senses. While many of them may seems helpful, most lack the most important basic understanding by which all areas should be compared - truth.
I know, I know... What does truth have to do with this? Aren't we talking about wisdom today. Yes! Wisdom starts with discerning what is true. One cannot be wise if he/she is following untrue advice.
At this point, many of you may be asking yourself how I can know real truth? I mean, she is NOT an author of a best selling book and she certainly isn't an acclaimed self-help guru. You would be correct. I will not waste your time offering my advice to you today. I want to share the teachings of someone infinitely more understanding than myself. In fact, He set the very standard by which all things are to be judged...God.
His word helps instructs us in what is true wisdom. In fact, it tells us that what the world deems wise is actually foolishness! The scriptures tell us in 2 Timothy 3:16 - 17 that, (16) All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Okay folks, a recap. The bible just told us that scripture is useful for everything and was given that we might be equipped for all things. Light bulb moment...
With that foundation in mind, let's now move to the teachings of a very wise man, King Solomon. King Solomon is arguably considered the most wise man to ever live on Earth. The Book of Proverbs starts with a summary of his wisdom. It states,
"(1) The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel. (2) To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, (3) to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; (4) to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth - (5) Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, (6) to understand a proverb and saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. (7) The fear of the LORD IS the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Wow! Solomon tells us that to be wise, we must first fear the LORD! But what does it even mean to fear the Lord? Before I delve into that topic, I encourage you to finish reading what king Solomon had to say about wisdom in the rest of Proverbs, Chapter 1.
When the scriptures speak of fearing the Lord, it can mean a literal, trembling kind of fear. But I believe that the context often leads us to understand it as a reverent kind of fear. The kind that you had when you were three and your daddy or momma told you to do something. You understood that they were boss, there would be consequences if you did not follow their directions and they were much larger than you. You probably also understood that they loved you and were seeking your best interest. You trusted them. It is the same with God. He has our best interests and the interests of all His creation in mind. He loves us and can be trusted implicitly.
Somehow as we grow older and become teens, we begin to question our parents. It is a natural part of the necessary separation that takes place. After all, our parents are fallible, human beings who make mistakes and we are not meant to dwell with the forever. But not so with God. He never changes; is all knowing and always correct in all His ways. He created everything and set the standard by which we are to live. In fact, we are not designed to grow-up and separate from Him. He are called to do just the opposite as we mature. We are to be more like Him, draw closer to Him and trust Him all the more. So, while our parental relationship is a foreshadowing of our relationship with God, it is imperfect in that we move apart from our parents leadership as we move toward following God directly. Our parents are there for a time while we learn in the flesh to understand the things of the Spirit. We need a physical mommy and daddy to be there to guide us until we are able to follow our eternal Father.
Right now you may be thinking, "Alright. I get we are to grow closer to God, but it is so hard to know how to live; to know the right answers and make the correct decisions."
The good news is scripture does not leave us in the without clear instruction. Those who seek to follow God are able to do so even though we don't have all the answers to every minutia. While the bible speaks of everything we are not to do, it gives us a great litany of things we ARE to do. One doing a quick search of the scriptures on the will of God will find many verses. One does not need to study for a an exam to understand these simple principles.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."
There it is folks! It is God's will that we start by seeking his kingdom and righteousness and everything else will be taken care of. This is where true wisdom starts. Fearing God - Seeking His Righteousness and not our own.
For those of you who are reading this and are not Christians, this will sound like foolishness. In fact, the scriptures tell us that is exactly what the world thinks. True wisdom comes from fearing God and believing in Him as savior. It starts with our salvation.
(18) the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
(20) Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (22) Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (24) but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
According to the scriptures, if you haven't received God's salvation, you are not truly wise and you are incapable of wisdom beyond that of the world. The good news is it does not have to remain this way. Choose this day whom you will serve. Follow Christ and make Him Lord of your life.
IF you are saved, you are already following the path of true wisdom. Take it deeper. Seek God and His righteousness DAILY. Surrender to His will. If you are doing these things, you will be able to discern what is the will of God. The scriptures tell us that the we were sent the Holy Spirit to be our Counselor. Yearn to learn of God and his Spirit will direct you in all your paths. You won't need a self-help book or direction from a renown guru peddling worldly advice. You have the ultimate life coach dwelling within you. His plan is written in your heart and in His word. Seek and you will find the truth and those treasures will become an ornament around your neck.
In parting, I am not suggesting you avoid seeking counsel from among other Christians. Quite the contrary. What I am suggesting is you discern what is correct by filtering everything through the scriptures. When we do this, we can be sure God will answer our prayers for wisdom.
James 1:5-8 gives us this promise with a disclaimer:
"(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously without reproach, and it will be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
I once heard a pastor say, "If you cannot say Amen, say Ouch!". Right. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask, but he also tells us we are to do it in faith. That is a whole other discussion I hope to have in another blog. For now, carry this caution with you when you seek the wisdom of the Lord and have faith that God will answer what you ask according to His will.
August 9, 2017
Yesterday, while working with grapes to make more jelly, I began to think about John 15 and Jesus’s teaching about the vine and the branches. He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
For us as Christians, we see this play out in our lives. God removes branches of our life that do not bear fruit. He prunes the fruit bearing branches so that they bear more fruit. This is often very painful. Sometimes we may be tempted to feel as if this careful tending is a curse more than a blessing; that it couldn’t be a "good" God that does this in our lives. Quite the contrary… It is BECAUSE God loves us that He sees to our spiritual growth and continually makes us more like Him through this painful process. The consequences of our sins are another thing altogether, though I’ll note that while God does not desire us to sin, He uses them for our good too. Did you know that grapes on the vine fail to ripen if not exposed to the sun? This requires cutting away the beautiful foliage to create air flow and expose the fruit to the light. In the same way, God cuts away what we consider “beautiful foliage” to make the “fruit we bear” ripe and ready for His harvest.
Are you suffering? Is there something painful in your life today? Whether it be there because of consequences to your choices or by God, you can trust that He doesn’t waste an opportunity. Romans 8:28 says, “For God works all things for good for those who love Him who are called according to His purpose.” James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
If you know Jesus, don't be distracted by how things seem today. You're life will likely not be characterized by this brief moment. Look forward to the harvest from the fruit you will bear and work toward that final moment.
If life is difficult right now, take comfort in your present sufferings and pain. God is busy making you perfect!
July 6, 2017
The devotional I was reading today had a suggestion for praying for my grown children that I thought I would share because it was really helpful. I think the prayer suggested by the author gives us the framework that will cover every need in their lives. This one job as parents never ends all the days our life; no matter their age. The scriptures tell us in James 5:16 that our prayers are powerful.
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16 ESV
There is only one caveat to God hearing our prayers mentioned in this verse. It says that the prayer of a righteous person.... How do we know if we are a righteous person? Will God hear our prayers? The scriptures are clear that there is but one way to be righteous; that we must be saved by and trust in Jesus as our savior.
The NASB translation says it this way, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." The NKJV this way: "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
I like to read different translations because of the slight nuances. Sometimes the variance is important. You might notice that the latter two translations mention the fervent prayer... I prefer to think that translation would be remiss without such a phrase. This is consistent with what the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Therefore, we should be ever mindful to pray as we go about our day and devote specific time to prayer when we are not distracted. In particular, tis can be applied to mean we must be "fervent" in our prayers for our children too. Below is the example of a prayer that I felt touched each major area of life generically. Certainly, there will be specific area of prayer for each person, but this is a general prayer.
Lord, you have said that in the last days You will pour out Your Spirit upon all flesh. I cry out to You from the depth of my heart and ask that You would pour out Your Holy Spirit upon my children. Pour out Your Spirit upon me and my other family members as well. pour out Your Spirit on all of their in-laws, both present and future. Pour out Your Spirit upon whatever difficult circumstances each of my children are facing. Be Lord over every part of their lives and every aspect of their being.
Speak to my child's heart and help him/her to hear from You. enable him/her to understand Your leading and direction for his/her life. Open his/her ears t hear Your truth so he/she will reject all lies. Help him/her to move by the power of Your Spirit. Enable him/her to rise above the onslaught of evil in our culture.
Where he/she has walked away from You in any way, stretch out Your hand and draw him/her back. Don't let him/her get away with anything tat is not pleasing in Your sight. Convict his/her heart and bring him/her back to where he/she should be. May the Holy Spirit poured out on him/her completely neutralize the power of the enemy attempting to pour out evil in his/her life.
I know You can do far more in my adult child's life than I can ever do, and I implore you to do so. But if there is anything I should do - or should not do - make it clear to me so that I will do the right tings. Holy Spirit of truth, reveal the truth that needs to be seen both to them and to me. Guide me in my response to them always.
I pray my child will never grieve Your Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) but will receive Him as a gift from You (Luke 11:13). Fill him/her with Your Spirit and pour into him/her Your peace, hope, faith, truth and power. Let a spirit of praise arise in his/her heart and teach him/her to worship You in Spirit and in truth.
This devotional has helped remind me to devote more time to prayer for my children. When I pray for them, it helps to keep my mind and trust focused on the work THE LORD is doing in their lives; saving me from a great deal of anxiety.
Thank you God for the gift of prayer. May I never neglect the discipline of using it to stay my mind on your will.
July 5, 2017
After I read the scriptures today, I also read a devotional about praying for adult children. It helped me ponder the simple truth found in Psalm 34. The author writes, "You must believe that God can deliver you from any fears you have about your adult children." Then is quotes Psalm 34:4, "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." When the author, King David, wrote this passage, he was listing some of the many reasons God could be praised. He could personally testify to these truths having suffered greatly and seeing the Lord's work in his life.
I believe this can be applied in all our lives. One bible commentator wrote, 'To "seek the Lord" is not merely to trust in him, but to fly to him, and make our requests of him in our troubles.' I agree with the commentator. But more, how often do we stop and go to Him in thanksgiving for what he has already done? (not that the author is saying that). Why wait until our time of trouble? Rest assured, that time will come again soon enough.
Friends, if you are a Christian, you no doubt have been afraid and immediately sought the Lord in prayer. Even if He did not resolve your situation the way you would have hoped, remember how He comforted you and gave you peace? Maybe He even did something to deliver you physically.
We are reminded by David that we too can take our fears to the Lord and He will deliver us. We can see his example in taking time to reflect on all that God has done. Perhaps he is even writing these things as a way to comfort himself by being reminded. You can take comfort in that today and thank God for all the times he has already shown Himself faithful to you and those you know.
In praying for my boys, I know the Lord hears my prayers and has a plan for them both. I do not fear the days ahead because I He is sovereign AND he hears my prayers. But I still have to remind myself of this truth and think on all that He has done.
If at this moment things seem difficult and you feel like no one, not even God, is listening, think on these words from Romans 8:28.
"For God works all things for good, for those who love Him who are called according to His purpose." The road may be littered with difficult circumstances and endings to situations that you don't like. It may not feel good right now, but God has plans way bigger than we can know or understand and it is ultimately for our good.
Here are several other verses for reflection on prayer and the power of God:
This is the confidence tat we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His ill, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14-15
To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Ephesian 3:20-21
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.