A New Year!

 

feed on his faithfulness It’s a New Year! I opened my Daily Bible on Thursday and started afresh. “In the beginning God…”  And although I have read them a hundred times, these words are like a warm balm to my heart and soul.  I think Genesis is my favorite book in the Bible. I continued to read, and my heart was so tender to Adam and Eve. Each year that I read the creation story, I see it with new eyes. This time I see Adam and Eve’s vulnerability and  frailty and I see myself— the countless times I’ve been duped by the enemy’s cunning!

As I follow their story, I practically melt as I see the tenderness of God in these verses. Adam and Eve disobeyed God.  Innocence was lost. Shame and fear entered humanity {among other things}.  And they try to hide from the very One who created them.  The relationship they had with God is now forever changed. Sin entered Eden. Their choices have long-reaching repercussions that we are still experiencing today.

As I read along, I’m anticipating the verses when God announces the punishment for their sin, but this time as I read, the words that leap off the page are:

“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”  Genesis 3:21

I sense such affection in these words. That the great God of the Universe, the Alpha and Omega, would reach down and cover His children is so precious to me!  He is loving regardless of what we do. No matter how bad we mess up, we don’t have to hide. We can walk out of the shadows and come to Him as we are. He will not turn us away.

As I read these words in Genesis, my heart is quickened by events that happened thousands of years ago.  God speaks to me through His Word by the power of His Spirit. And little by little, He changes me. Each day that I open His Word, I feed on His faithfulness, His constancy, His love. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. (Matt. 4:4)

I’d like to encourage you to read your Bible this year, daily. There are many plans and Bibles to help you with this. I read from The Devotional Daily Bible which you can get here. The girls over at She Reads Truth are doing #365 days of truth and they have an app you can get for your phone. Also, my dear friend, Denise Hughes, has Team 365 that’s going through the Bible in a year and you can join them right here.

Here’s to a New Year!

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Joining Barbie and the gang for The Weekend Brew! Click on the button and join us!

Barbie Swihart

A Great Light!

 

the people who walk in darkness 2

I was halfway between Florida and Virginia a couple of days ago, crumpled in a heap on a hotel room floor sobbing. I flipped on the TV for a bit of distraction only to feel worse by the barrage of frightening stories on the News channels interspersed with the shiny tinsel-clad commercials that tempt us to believe that right now everyone is merry and bright. I was neither.

I turned off the TV and in between sobs, cried out to God. Literally.

I am dealing with a few tough situations in my life that are out of my control and beyond my understanding. I am frustrated and scared. And I feel like I’m walking in the dark.

In the stillness of that hotel room, I sensed a faint whisper… “I came into darkness.”

I remembered the words from Isaiah. “A people walking in darkness…”

Jesus left His throne to take on the limitations and frustrations of humanity. He pierced this dark world with the light of His Presence. He came at a time when Herod’s murderous regime was wreaking havoc. He came when the Pharisees and Sadducees were heaping unbearable burdens on people and filling their own coffers with silver and gold. Jesus came when corruption had infiltrated every aspect of society. Secular and religious. When the hearts of many had grown cold.

Jesus came. And He comes now. Into this darkness. Mine.  Yours.

I have been thinking about these words from Isaiah for days now. I still cannot see into the shadows of my circumstances. It still remains dark. But…. Jesus sees everything. Psalm 139:12 says, “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

He is the Light of the World. And He will lead me.

He is the Good Shepherd. He will guide me.

And He is Immanuel. God with me.

The good news of great joy is that I have a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  I am not alone.  And I am not left alone to grapple in the darkness.

He is Light and He is here. Praise God!  Jesus is here.

Giving Thanks

let them give thanks

Giving thanks today to the Source of all blessings and gifts. For we know that every good thing comes from above, from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17).


Father, we thank You for every blessing, for  every gift, for our families, our friends, for shelter and clothing, for work and for play. We thank You especially for hearing us when we call, for rescuing us from the dominion of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom we have forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14) Thank You for calling us out of darkness and into Your marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9) Thank You that even when we were dead in transgressions, You made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with Him in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 5-6)  O Lord, thank You that You have not left us alone, but You sent Your Spirit to help us and guide us in all we do. (John14:26)

We thank You for this great country of ours, for bringing us so far, for establishing us and protecting us. We ask that You move in the hearts of every American today. Point us toward You. Establish us in Your word. Capture our hearts, Lord, as only You can. Send a wave of revival all through our land, we pray.

We thank You and praise You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

A People of Hope

this hope 3

 

What is the gospel? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself recently.

You can hardly open a Christian magazine or visit a Christian website without seeing the word used in a variety of contexts. The word “gospel” is used in connection with social justice, politics, therapy and everything in between. But what does the Bible say about the gospel? . . .

{Click here to read the rest of this post.}

Today, I’m joining Barbie Swihart at My Freshly Brewed Life to talk about the gospel. We’d love for you to join us!

Day 31 – To know Christ

I am my Beloved's

 

I love hearing how people have come to faith in Christ. Everyone’s story is so unique. Take the Apostle Paul, for instance, I mean you can’t really beat a story that begins with a man on a mission of murder and on the way there is surprised by a sudden meeting with the risen Christ Himself. And the rest of Paul’s story, of course, is history.  Among my favorite testimonies is that of Joy Davidman, the wife of C. S. Lewis.  She referred to herself as “the world’s most surprised atheist”.  When describing her conversion, she said, “all my defenses–– the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I had hid from God–– went down momentarily–– and God came in.” Joy related her experience in this way:

“It is infinite, unique; there are no words, there are no comparisons. Can one scoop up the sea in a teacup? Those who have known God will understand. There was a Person with me in that room, directly present to my consciousness–– a Person so real that all my precious life was by a comparison a mere shadow play. And I myself was more alive than I had ever been, it was like waking from sleep.”

She later wrote:

“And the Redeemer who had made Himself known, whose personality I would have recognized among ten thousand–– well, when I read the New Testament, I recognized Him. He was Jesus.”

 

I was nine years old the day that Jesus made Himself known to me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I went with my family to a revival at a local church. I cannot tell you what the sermon was about or what the minister said that so awakened me.  But I became acutely aware of the cavernous hole and ache in my heart. And all of a sudden it was clear that Jesus was the only one that could fill it.  I don’t remember getting from the church to our house. But when I walked through the door of our home, I began to cry and told my mother that I wanted to give Jesus my heart. And so we knelt on my sister’s bedroom floor, my mother, my sister and I, and my mother led me in prayer.

I would love to tell you that it has been a smooth and linear walk with the Lord from that time on, but it hasn’t. I have gone through times when I have chased other things. Lesser gods. To my own hurt and demise. But God, in His faithfulness, has pursued me relentlessly and wooed me back. Time and again.

There is a scene near the end of the movie, “Pride and Prejudice“, when the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, unable to sleep, gets out of bed early in the morning and walks into a meadow. She is totally lovesick for a man she has formerly spurned. And she doesn’t know what to do. As she stares out at the sunrise, the camera zooms out so that the audience can observe her beloved Darcy walking toward her to proclaim his undying love. That scene reminds me of the relentless pursuit of Christ. He comes for us. When we least expect it. He is always coming for us.

Do you know Him? Would you like to? If you would, I’d be honored to lead you in a simple prayer.


 

Lord Jesus, I come to You bowing in my heart.  I come by faith, believing that You are the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the only begotten Son of God. I believe You are my Savior. I come to You not on the basis of any good I’ve done, but solely by Your grace and mercy. I recognize that You are holy and I am full of sin.  I believe You are the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. I ask that You cleanse me from my sin. I believe that on the cross, Your body was broken for me and Your blood was shed for me.  Thank You, Lord Jesus for Your extravagant love.

 

I want to know You. I want You to be Lord of my life. I surrender my heart to You today. Lord Jesus, take up residence in me. From this day forward, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 


I dedicate “31 Days of Prayer” to my mother who first taught me to pray.

Day 30 – Perseverance

my soul waits for the Lord

I have been praying for a few things for a very long time. Things that are so important to me. Things that burden my heart greatly. And it feels like I’m swimming upstream, against an invisible current.

The enemy whispers, “Why don’t you just forget that one, it’ll never happen.” Or, “it happened for so-and-so, but it’s not going to happen the same way for you.” Sometimes the taunts are enough to make me want to pull the covers over my head and call it a day!

And then comes the reminder. We’re in a battle. There’s a spiritual war going on in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) The enemy wants us to give up and give in. But we must fight with “all prayer and petition, praying at all times in the Spirit”(Ephesians 6:18) and we must not lose heart (Luke 18:1). We need to pray through. And keep on praying until the answer comes.

Today we want to take in this blessed truth: It is a part, and a very important one. When we have special petitions, in connection with which we are waiting on God, our waiting must be very definitely in the confident assurance: “My God will hear me.” A holy, joyful expectancy is of the very essence of true waiting…And waiting has to become more than ever a tarrying before God in stillness of soul, counting upon Him who raises the dead, and calls the things that are not as though they were.

Andrew Murray, Waiting on God


Father, I look to You. I watch expectantly. I wait for You, the God of my salvation. I thank You that You hear me. (Micah 7:7)  Lord, for from old they have not heard nor perceived by ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for You. (Isaiah 64:4) Thank You for Your faithfulness. Thank You that those of us who wait for You will gain new strength, we will mount up with wings like eagles, we will run and not get tired, we will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31) Remind us, Lord, when we’re tempted to give up, that You are there and You hear us. Give us strength for the long haul,Lord. But when we get tired, let us lean into You and rest in the expanse of Your strength.

Father, there are things we are praying for that seem impossible. Many of us have been praying for months and even years.  For lives to be changed, loved ones to come to faith in You, for the sick to be healed, for marriages to be restored, and so many other things. Lord, thank You that nothing is impossible for You. (Luke 1:37) Nothing is too hard for You. We lift up all these burdens to You again, thanking You that You hear us.

We wait for You. Our soul waits for You, O Lord, more than the watchmen for the morning, indeed more than the watchmen for the morning. ( Psalm 130:6) In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

Day 29 – Morning Prayer

every good thing

Good morning, Lord. Thank You for rest. Thank You for allowing us to wake up to another day.

Lord God, You are God in the heavens above and the earth below. (Joshua 2:11) Father, You hang the earth on nothing. You wrap up the waters in Your clouds and the cloud does not burst under them. You have inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble and are amazed at Your rebuke. By Your breath the heavens are cleared. And these are the fringes of Your ways, O God. (Job 26:7,8,10-11,13-14) How magnificent are Your ways, O Lord. We cannot even conceive how everything holds together in You.

Wash us this morning, Lord. Wash us in the water of Your word and (Ephesians 5:26) refresh us with the sunlight of Your Presence today.

Father, this day is spread out ahead of us. We pray that You would bless it. We pray that You would anoint us with Your Spirit and fill us to overflowing. We pray that as we go, we would carry the very fragrance of Christ. Fill us, this day, with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that we may walk in a manner worthy of You, pleasing You in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in knowledge of You, strengthened with all power, according to Your glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to You, O God, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

Strengthen and equip us to do all that this day requires. Show us what needs to be done today and show us what needs to be left undone. Make us wise and good stewards of all that You have so graciously given us. Give us discernment and help us to prioritize the day’s responsibilities. We ask that You would remind us of those things that have eternal value and quicken us to go where You lead.

Father, we thank You for the gift of this day. We know that every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from You, the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)

Make us a blessing to someone else today. For Your glory and in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Joining Barbie at The Weekend Brew. Click on the link and join us!

Day 28 – Evening Prayer

in peace I will both lie down and sleep

Father, as the light fades on another day, we thank You. We thank You for family and friends, for provision, for food and water, for shelter, for the ability to move and create, for work for our hands and our mind, for gifts to bless others.

Lord, we are mindful that there are others out there who are lacking tonight. Lacking loved ones, lacking food and shelter, lacking work and others who are sick. We lift them all up to You and pray that You would provide. You are Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. Send someone to offer kindness. Provide food for the hungry. A job for those unemployed. And strength and healing for all those who are sick. Wrap them all in Your loving arms and hold them close. Draw near to all those in need tonight. Need wears many faces. It all looks different, but the truth is, we all need You, Lord.

Father, we open our hands and our hearts, as we ask You to show us how we may best serve You tomorrow. Open our eyes to the opportunities You have placed in our path. Quicken us to know when there is a need that You have chosen us to meet. And thank You that You will give us the wisdom and resources necessary to fulfill that which You call us to do. Lord, fill us with Your love and grace that it might spill over on to others. Let us be characterized by Your love.

As we lay down tonight, grant us sweet sleep, O God. Give us adequate rest so that we wake up refreshed and ready for a new day. Father, we thank You and praise You for loving us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 27 – For the Lost

behold the former things

 

Is there someone you love that doesn’t know the Lord? Perhaps a family member? A spouse? A son or daughter?

Have you tried to talk to them and feel like you fail every time?

I take great comfort in the testimony of the Apostle Paul. Paul was a Pharisee and a murderer of Christians in the first century. He was even proud of the work he was doing. But one day, on his way to Damascus, he met up with none other than Jesus Himself. The Risen Savior. And Paul’s life would never be the same.

Paul recounts his experience to King Agrippa in Acts 26:

 

So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time previously, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion… So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them… While thus engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And I said, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And the Lord said, ” I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

Acts 26:4-5,9-10,12-15

Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and Jesus transformed him into a great evangelist who led many to faith in Christ.

This is so encouraging to me. It reminds me that nothing {and no one} is too hard for the Lord.


 

Father, I come to You today with a heavy heart for those that don’t know You. I lift up these dear loved ones, {insert names}, to You. I pray that You would open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, from Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in You. (Acts 26:18)

Father, I earnestly ask that You deliver {insert names} from the domain of darkness and transfer them to the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom they may have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13)

O God, let {insert names} hear Your message of truth, the gospel of their salvation and believe in You. (Ephesians 1:13) I pray that You would bring these dearly love near to You by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13) O Merciful Father, have mercy on {insert names}, pour out Your great love on them and show them Your tremendous kindness, for Your kindness leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4) Melt their hearts as only You can.

Open the eyes that are blind, bring out the prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. (Isaiah 42:7) Let them sing a new song, a song of praise to You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 26 – For Guidance

lead me to the rock

There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t ask the Lord for guidance. In every area of my life, something always seems to pop up that stumps me. Whether it’s issues involving my young adult daughters or working at our family business or just life, in general. I have a constant need for God’s counsel and His guiding hand.

In His word, He promises to lead us if we will ask Him. That’s what we will do today. I don’t know what your particular situation is, but God does. Let’s bring it to Him.


 

Father, I bow in reverence to You this day. How I thank You and praise You that You have not left us as orphans (John 14:18) but You are Immanuel, God with us.(Matthew 1:23) You are near. O God, in the midst of all the decisions that we have to make, lean in close. Let us know Your nearness. Shine on us the light of Your Presence.

 

Father, as You led Your people in the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to give light (Exodus 13:21), lead us. Lead us to the Rock that is higher than we are. For You are our refuge, a tower of strength from the enemy. Let us dwell in Your tent forever. Let us take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalm 61:2-4)

 

You are good and upright, therefore You instruct sinners in their way. You lead the humble in justice and teach the humble Your way. All of Your paths are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep Your covenant and Your testimonies.(Psalm 25:8-10) If we’ve made bad choices, show us where we’ve gone astray and lead us in Your way which is everlasting.

I pray that You would prevent us from walking in the counsel of the wicked or standing in the path of sinners or sitting in the seat of scoffers but, I pray, that our delight would be in Your law and on it, we would meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

 

You promise that by Your Spirit, You will guide us into all truth (John 16:13) and teach us, bringing into remembrance all that You have said in Your word. (John 14:26) Guide us and teach us, we pray. We live in an age of information overload. Messages are being thrown at us constantly. The world we live in can subtly influence our decision making. Speak to us, Lord. Let Your people hear Your voice. Let us trust in You with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge You and You will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) In the name of the Mighty Counselor and Prince of Peace, Jesus, Amen.