Have you ever put your hard-earned money in an investment that resulted in a partial loss or total failure?
Early in our marriage, Judy and I invested a large sum of money in a venture that we were sure to make a great return. Many of our friends were also convinced this was a money-maker, so literally hundreds of thousands of dollars were invested from people in the Grand Rapids area. All of us were excited about how this new opportunity could make life economically easier.
Then the bombshell exploded and the company went bankrupt, leaving each investor with nothing but a piece of paper with an empty promise.
I am a very forgiving person and can overlook people’s mistakes and shortcomings. However, I find it more difficult to trust people when they refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
I grew up in a family of five children. Mistakes and bad decisions were always forgiven, but excuses were not tolerated.
When Dad told us to complete a work project, he expected us to do it. If it was not completed, he wanted to know why. If our reasons made sense he gave extra time to complete the project, but if we gave him excuses it resulted in extra work. More excuses equaled more work!
Last week a memory popped into my head of a time when I was very young. It wasn't a very good memory and even though it wasn't horrific - I realized it had followed me into my adult life. The memory came with an emotion that surprised me as I shared it, completely out of the blue, with a close friend of mine last week.
She listened intently as I told her I still remembered the hurtful feelings of rejection and guilt, and the sadness I felt at the thought of being such a big disappointment to this person I loved and admired. It was very clear - I had not met her expectation or approval.
Our relationship began when she lead me to Jesus at 8-years-old. I was a good kid with a strong desire to please. I attended the small church faithfully by myself and grew very close to my pastor and her husband. Then, a few years later I started junior high and was involved in sports, musical programs, and studies.
I was an overachiever and looking back I can see how my desire to please may have caused some hardships in my life.
One day it hit me I hadn't been in church for a while and I missed everyone - especially my pastor. So I was pretty excited when I found a ride to the evening service.
I was 14 and I remember walking in with a huge smile on my face, only to be confronted with a strong look of disapproval from my pastor. No hug ... no smile. Just some words that let me know her disappointment with me was greater than the joy of seeing me. I quietly took my seat and I honestly don't remember much about the night after that, except feeling far away from a person I once was so close to.
I don't believe she wanted to hurt me; I guess looking back both of us had unmet expectations as well as disappointment. I did end up returning to the church for a few years, but something was definitely missing for me. I'm thankful to say I found it! It was grace! That lovely, unconditional acceptance Jesus always gives us with open arms.
So, don't let disappointment or unmet expectations hold you emotionally captive. Grace wants to set you free!
The Lord said in 1 Corinthians 12:9
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Photo: Daria Nepriakhina
My morning habit is usually enjoying a cup of coffee while I do my devotions and Bible reading. So I start off good, but often find myself still going back to some old habits before the day is over, like grabbing a cookie instead of an apple or letting myself get busy with a project when I should be working out.
The truth is I had gotten lazy about making right choices and found myself returning to old habits. Then, last week a particular devotional got my attention. The first sentence was in big bold letters: I WANT YOU TO LEARN A NEW HABIT.
I couldn't seem to get past the phrase, “I want you to learn a new habit.”
Habits are things we do without thinking; they just become a natural part of our routine and often don’t even require much thought. I knew God wanted me to become more deliberate in my everyday choices and more natural in choosing His way before my way.
So, later that night as Keith rubbed my feet, we began to thank God for the wonderful day. It's in those tender moments after prayer that I find myself completely relaxed, not really thinking about anything. The soft lights on the tree made the room so peaceful and quiet. I closed my eyes and we both sat in silence. Then, softly I heard this in my mine; the word H-A-B-I-T-S was spelled out to me. Then I heard "Heavenly Appetites Before Ingesting Temporary Satisfaction."
I waited a few minutes and told Keith what I heard. We both knew it was from God.
The verse that came to me was Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added on to you."
How simple God makes everything. I knew He was telling me how to successfully replace old bad habits for brand new ones, habits that would bring me health, strength, peace and joy. I just need to remember that before I give in to old habits that satisfy my fleshly desires, I need to stop and apply this truth. When I decide to satisfy my Heavenly Appetite Before Ingesting Temporary Satisfaction, I will be filled with what's eternal.
Our relationship with Christ affects every aspect of life.
I love everything about the Christmas season - parties where friends gather, Christmas carols filling the air with a message of peace and love, and the joyful laughter that overtakes our home when the grandkids come to decorate cookies, while covering my kitchen floor with sprinkles of every color.
My children lovingly call me Mrs. Claus, because I usually have my very own festival of lights going on throughout the house. The warm glow of the tree lights and other lighted decorations seem to set the atmosphere for cuddle time and peaceful chats.
I enjoy decorating the tables and mantles, but my favorite symbol of this meaningful season is the tree. My granddaughter helps me decorate the tree with special ornaments that friends and loved ones have given to me. I especially love the ones that reflect the light. Sometimes I sit and just stare at the tree, its peaceful presence calms me and I'm reminded of another tree that has brought me such peace.
It was chosen for The Son of God. It isn't a tree that you can find on a tree lot or in any cut-your-own evergreen field. It was a special tree that held the most precious ornament known to mankind - Jesus. The tree didn't need twinkle lights, for the light of God’s glory still illuminates it for all the world to see.
This tree was the cross of Calvary, which held the innocent body of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. You see, to me this is The True Christmas Tree.
So, the next time you see a Christmas tree, covered with lights and beautiful decorations, I hope you remember that God loved you so much, that He gave the most precious gift He had, His Only Son, Jesus Christ - Who hung upon that tree for all eyes to see and all hearts to know. This tree doesn't need manmade lights, for Jesus is the light of the world.
I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of life.
Photo: Maciej Korsan
Have you ever read the statement, “You need to get rid of your stinkin’ thinkin’ in order to be healthy,”?
This phrase reflects a person’s outlook on life. Every action starts with a thought; if the thinking is wrong, the action is wrong. You can’t think wrongly and act rightly.
Thanksgiving is a great time of year to correct wrong thinking. It’s a time for us to catalog all the good things God has blessed us with in our lives. It’s amazing how our feelings change when we focus on the blessings rather than the deficits.
The apostle Paul was in prison while he was writing the letter to the Philippian church. One would expect him to complain about his imprisonment and even feel sorry for himself because of the suffering he was enduring. However, Paul was joyful and thankful while he was living in these horrible conditions.
How do you rise above this and have a good attitude?
Paul reveals the answer to this question in Philippians 4:8 – 9:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I was privileged to have grown up in a thankful family. Both of my parents went through the Great Depression; they experienced lean times. Many of their friends and peers experienced the same things but they chose to become bitter and cynical. Dad and Mom always focused on the important things of health, relationships, the church, opportunity, food, shelter and one another. They took care of their aging parents’ affairs. In fact, my grandmother lived with our family for thirteen years.
I never heard my mom complain about caring for my grandma, her mother-in-law. She was thankful that she was able to honor my dad by being kind and generous to his mother.
She also focused on the benefits the children received by having daily interaction with an elderly grandparent. This experience was extremely valuable for me because it helped me understand and honor older people in my pastorates. Being thankful brings value to everything we experience in life.
I Thessalonians 5:18 explicitly says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
God’s will for you this thanksgiving season is to be thankful and focus on the benefits and blessings in your life.
Healthy people are thankful people.
Photo: Inspiration Feed
How many times have you faced a locked door? Do you remember the frustration you felt as you tugged and pulled on it over and over, but it still remained locked?
Well, just a few weeks ago I personally experienced this very situation. Sometimes I stay in the Green Room to be available for anyone who might need prayer or to talk over a personal situation. Other times, I do what I call a prayer walk in the halls or in the arena. This particular time I felt kind of torn about where to be, so I stepped outside the room. However, as I did, the door swung shut and locked. I thought, "Oh great! Now what?"
After observing different people making several attempts to unlock the door, I decided to leave it in God’s hands and I would find a hall to pray in.
It was then that one of our people, needing a restroom, was directed down the hallway I was standing in. She looked so worn out and as she walked toward me, I felt this strong urge to pray for her. As I put my arms around her, I prayed for the Lord’s strength to fill her, and instantly He just poured His strength into her body. I watched as her energy returned and her eyes began to brighten.
She then shared with me the difficulty of dealing with some tragic family situations, but said she now felt stronger and hopeful. I'm so grateful I happened to be right there at that very moment. I told her I was there, because my door was locked.
We talked a little longer and then as she started to walk away, she looked back over her shoulder smiling and shouted, "Wow! God sure knows when to lock a door."
If the door hadn't locked on me, we both would have missed this wonderful opportunity God had planned. He knew her need and wanted to hold and comfort her with His strength.
The next time a door shuts and locks on you, instead of getting frustrated ... look around. Perhaps God has something better planned on this side of the door.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Last week my 101-year-old aunt left this life to enter eternity. She and my uncle lived their whole lives selfishly. They had no children so they became even more absorbed in living life on their own terms. Spiritual issues were secondary to creating wealth that they could depend upon in their elderly years. They achieved their financial goals. Their house was paid for and they had plenty of money in a number of banks.
My mother was the executor of their estate. My uncle asked her to look after my aunt if he should die before her.
In 2009, my uncle died at 94-years of age, leaving their small fortune to his wife. Mom tried to talk to her about her financial situation, but each time her words were met with anger and accusation that she just wanted her money. All mom wanted to do was carry out their wishes.
The last six years were difficult for my mother because my aunt developed dementia and often showed horrible hostility toward her. This resulted in an attorney becoming the trustee of her estate so Mom wouldn’t have to endure her abuse.
Over the last six years, much of their estate was used up to pay for her in-home care.
Many times my mother tried to talk with her about her relationship with God, but it was always met with resistance. However, I had the privilege of praying with her for salvation on one of my visits at home with my family. I hope she reached out to receive Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. However, there was no evidence that she really made this commitment. Both mom and I can only hope that she understood and really meant business with God.
My aunt had a stroke two weeks ago that paralyzed her right side and destroyed her speech. The first one she reached out to from her hospital bed was my mother. She knew that Mom was prepared for this journey beyond this world.
Luke 12:13-21 describes a person much like my aunt and uncle. A wealthy farmer focused only on his own wealth and security. He forgot that it was the ground that yielded an abundant harvest.
In verses 18 and 19, this farmer says, “I will store up more crops and build bigger barns. I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years, take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.’”
However, God’s answer to this man was, “You fool. Tonight your soul is required of you.”
This man’s focus was wealth, not his relationship with God. His wealth was left for others to enjoy while he faced the terror of entering eternity without God.
Today, I encourage you to be wise and live your life in the light of eternity. Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Hold temporal things, especially wealth, with an open hand so it does not become your focus. Remember, eternity is only a breath or heartbeat away.
Photo: Ryan McGuire
Today my thoughts seemed to drift toward the people I care about; so many family and friends needing prayer, so my day began by sending out prayers in their direction.
I find that sitting quiet after reading the Bible helps me to focus on how to pray for others. It's like being invisibly drawn into their circumstance for a few minutes, as if I am right there with them. However, I'm reminded that it's not me with them, but The Spirit of God Himself, and what greater comfort could there be.
Prayer partnered with God’s Word is more powerful than we realize. It's not hindered by distance and knows no boundaries. It can penetrate through the hardest walls of resistance and change the most impossible situations.
I have learned that prayer is actually the battleground where we engage the enemy and that His Word is like a bullet in a high powered rifle. The rifle can look intimidating as we point it toward an enemy, but the truth is...without the ammunition in place (His Word), we are just trying to fake our way through, hoping the enemy doesn't catch on that our weapon is not even loaded.
When I went through breast cancer 3 years ago, God’s peace came to me through scripture and I clung to it like an oxygen mask when you can't breathe on your own. It was Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you; you only need to hold your peace."
I asked God what that really meant and His answer has made my times of prayer more peaceful and given me a greater understanding of how spiritual battles are won.
In the wilderness, Satan approached Jesus three times, yet Jesus only responded by speaking the Word of God. God’s Word shot Satan over and over until he finally limped away, having been seriously wounded by it.
When we speak God’s Word in prayer, we are like high-powered rifles, releasing deadly blows to the enemy. His Word destroys fear, sickness, addictions, and any enemy that tries to defeat us. It's the Word of God that fights for us.
So, stay cool...loaded and ready...when an enemy appears, let God’s Word take him out!
On August 5, 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped in a mine over 2000 feet below the earth’s surface. They weren’t discovered alive until 17 days later. Everyone thought they were dead. Seventeen days of isolation and darkness without any hope.
Four small holes were bored so food, medicine and supplies could be given to them. The miners had to work together to keep their spirits up and prepare for their rescue.
All were put on diets because the rescue hole was quite small. Each had an exercise routine. They ate together, prayed together and worked together in twenty-four hour shifts to clear the debris from the bored holes.
One man, who had taken a six month nursing course, administered medicine and took blood and urine samples regularly from the men so their health could be monitored when the samples were sent above ground for analysis.
The president of Chile sought help from the best minds in the world to rescue these men. Twelve drillers from twelve different countries were assembled to create a plan to rescue these miners.
Finally, on October 10, 2010, the 33 miners were rescued after a 68 day ordeal, which many describe as a true miracle of God.
Put yourself in that situation. What are some of the emotions and thoughts that would go through your mind?
- *The first seventeen days when no one knew you were even alive.
- *The fifty one days preparing for your rescue.
- *Being lifted out of the earth, from over 2000 feet below the surface. It took twenty minutes for the one-man rescue capsule to come from the bottom where the miners were trapped, to the surface.
- *Connecting with your loved ones after days of hopelessness.
These men were overjoyed about being rescued because they knew they were in trouble and couldn’t rescue themselves.
What about people who need rescuing but are unaware of the danger they face or ignore the danger?
On December 29, 2011, police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, rescued a man who was sleeping in a burning car. The Grand Rapids Press reported the man fell asleep in a parked car with his foot on the accelerator before the fire started. The police said the engine apparently overheated causing the blaze.
A lot of people live like this drunken man. They are totally unaware of the danger of being separated from God forever.
It’s interesting how we will prepare for life but ignore the spiritual dimensions. Whether you are aware or unaware of your need of rescue, I’ve got good news for you.
John 20:31 emphatically says, “But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The simplicity of John 3:16 is still true for all of mankind: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever (that’s you) believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Eternal life is the best of both worlds – now and after death.
Jesus came to rescue us from our sin-nature that separated us from God the Father. He died for our sins and purchased a place for us in heaven, which He offers as a gift. This gift is received by faith.
Saving-faith is the key that unlocks the door to freedom forever. The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
This means transferring your trust from yourself to Christ.
Once you make this decision you will experience what it means to truly be rescued.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brungs
Years ago when the kids were small and I was trying to enjoy a few minutes to myself, I could often hear them in the other room getting louder and louder. They were just being kids, but it never failed at some point I would hear, "Mom!" and I knew I was being summoned to become the peacemaker in the midst of a Stormy Situation.
As parents raising a family, we often wonder at times, just how long it will be before our children grasp an understanding of how to deal with difficult situations in a more mature and peaceful way.
This makes me think about how Jesus must have felt in Matthew 8:23-27, when His disciples found themselves in a Stormy Situation. They had been with Him day and night for almost three years, yet had not learned how to apply the truths that He had taught them. Like my kids when they were young and yelling for me, the disciples shouted, "Jesus!" and proceeded to wake Him up from His rest to deal with the Stormy Situation.
Jesus gently, but firmly pointed out in verse 26, that their faith and confidence to deal with such difficult situations were still immature and obviously underdeveloped. He was demonstrating the stance they were to take in this type of conflict, to be at rest and peaceful - instead of anxious and fearful.
Like a parent demonstrating a life lesson, He got up and dealt with the scary thing that tormented them. He spoke to the high winds and giant waves to 'Calm Down', but I believe He was also focusing on another storm, which was the one inside His disciples' souls. It is often the storm inside that God calms when the storms outside are still raging.
After walking with the Lord for all these years, I wish I could say that I now handle every Stormy Situation with maturity and fully developed faith, but I'm still growing in that area. However, I'm so glad that I can still shout, "Help me, Lord Jesus!" whenever my faith seems weak; and just knowing He's in the boat with me, helps me speak with greater confidence to the Stormy Situations inside and out.
My advice? Make sure Jesus is always in your boat!
My husband and I spend our mornings in Bible reading and personal time with the Lord. We love to share with each other whatever the Lord shows us. It’s amazing to think that God Almighty actually wants to talk to us and just be with us. It’s in these times that I have come to learn the value of keeping a personal journal, because it's so easy to forget God’s promises when times are hard and our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back.
Keith was reading Luke 1:5-25 and God spoke to him about me. I have been going at a very fast and steady pace for the last few months and I'm sure many of you have been doing that as well. I absolutely love what I am doing, yet at times I must admit I can feel the weariness creep up on me.
When we are young, our bodily strength is at its peak and we can run through a troop and leap over walls without much help from the Lord, but as we grow older our running slows down to walking fast and we often need a boost to get over the walls.
In this passage of scripture the angel Gabriel tells Zacharias that he and his wife Elizabeth are going to have a son in their old age. This seems impossible to him so he responds like most of us would. In my version it would sound something like this:
"What? Are you nuts?! Is there something wrong with your thinking? Haven't you noticed who you're talking to? Do you realize how old we are?"
Obviously Zacharias' thoughts materialized into words of unbelief and were interfering with God’s plan. He was thinking and speaking about his inabilities, instead of focusing on God’s promise and His power to fulfill it.
So Gabe did what any smart angel would do, he shut Zach's mouth, and as an added protection to secure God’s plan, he even blocked his hearing, so that the unbelieving voices of others couldn't add more doubt or confusion. As a result God’s plan was fulfilled.
So, my take away from this?
It's time for me to 'Shut Out' the voices of doubt and unbelief, pointing out my inabilities and weaknesses. And I need to 'Shut My Mouth' if my words are interfering with God’s promises and plans.