Category Archives: Devotionals

A Miracle Wedding

Almost three years ago, Kat, a young woman from Germany, came to live with us. She was part of a team of young foreign missionaries who came to our church to work with our youth program and public high school students, as well as serving in our church. Kat remained (usually they only serve for one year) and we then hosted both Kat and Cainan (from Brazil). The next year, we hosted Kat and Michelle (from Germany). Over those three years, there were other team members from various countries who were hosted in other homes.

Meanwhile, Kat met Chris at our church and they ended up becoming engaged. A large wedding and reception were planned for March 21st and a number of the past missionaries flew out for the event. Michelle, Cainan, and Kat’s brother (from Bolivia) stayed in our home. Kat was still living here.

On March 16th, Chris had a strong impression that the wedding date should be moved to March 17th. Less than 24 hours later, 25 people attended a lovely wedding and reception in our yard and home. A friend loaned us tables and chairs and her husband (with about two hours of notice) played the keyboard. Chris’ parents provided the dinner through the restaurant that they had originally booked to cater the event. (Chris’ father picked up the food). In a week of intermittent rain, we had a beautiful day. Kat and Chris were also able to change their hotel room date, so they still got a night away.

Near the end of the night, we learned that our state would now be restricting social gatherings to ten people or less. Soon, we would be encouraged to self-isolate as much as possible.

As countries were closing their borders and flights were being canceled, we prayed and worked together to rearrange flights and provide transportation for the foreign guests. Thankfully, everyone made it safely back to their countries.

This wedding was a demonstration of God’s faithfulness and what can be accomplished when people act decisively and work together. As the world faces the challenges of the corona virus, may we all be cooperative and helpful, doing whatever is possible to slow down this pandemic. May we also be fervent in prayer and trust God for the impossible. Mark 10:27: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

I would like to encourage you to journal about the large and small acts of God’s faithfulness in your life. A big one for us was getting all our foreign guests safely home. A smaller, but encouraging, event that happened in my life recently is that one of our bankers called to see how we were. I learned that he and his wife are Christians and we prayed together over the phone. It is good to keep our focus on God’s faithfulness, especially during these challenging times.

(You can read about another wedding miracle in the Bible: John 2:1-11)

A Man Named Nathanael

Someone recently sent me an article about a certain controversial government leader. As I read it, what came to mind was nothing directly related to that particular person. Instead, I thought of a man in the Bible named Nathanael.

Nathanael’s friend, Philip, came to him and said he and others had found the Messiah that the Old Testament had prophesied about: Jesus of Nazareth.

Nathanael’s first response was, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

Philip replied, “Come and see.”

What amazes and inspires me about Nathanael is that, despite his biases, and all the negative things he had heard, he was open to investigating the matter. I respect a person like that.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” Nathanael was a man who was willing to lay aside his personal biases and seek the truth.

When we hear negative (or even positive) things about people, do we seek the truth, or do we only listen to those who share the opinions we have already formed? Personally, I want to be more like Nathanael!

(Note: You may read about Nathanael in the Bible: John 1:43-50)

Focused Prayer

I don’t know about you, but I have often found that distracting thoughts bombard my mind when I’m praying. I’m going to share some things I do that help me to stay focused. Perhaps some of these ideas will help you.

  1. I ask God to protect me from demonic influence and to focus my attention on Him.

2. I use the Psalms to guide my prayers. (I might only select one verse, or work through the whole Psalm.)

Example: Psalm 1

(verse 1) “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

Lord, help me to seek Your wisdom and the wisdom of Your people rather than listening to what the world has to say. Help me not to hang out with the wrong kind of people (but to pray for them.)

(verse 2) “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Lord, help me to read, understand, memorize and think about Your Word (the Bible) throughout the day.

(verse 3) “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Lord, help me to yield good fruit for Your glory (Galatians 5:22-23). Help me to be patient and wait for You to work things out in Your time frame. Fill me with Your life. Replace my selfish desires with Your desires, so You may bless me as I serve You and others.

(verses 4-6) “The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Thank You, Lord, that someday the wicked will be dealt with and I will not have to be with them anymore. Thank You that You know the ways of the righteous (those saved by faith in Jesus). Please help me to walk righteously (obeying You) and please work in the hearts of those who don’t know You to draw them into Your kingdom. Thank You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

3) I can pray through a proverb.

Example: Proverb 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Lord, when someone speaks harshly to me, please help me to hold my tongue until You are in control of it. May my response be respectful and loving.

4) I can personalize prayers from Scripture.

Example: Ephesians 3:16-20 personalized

Lord, out of Your glorious riches, please strengthen me with power through Your Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith. Root and establish me in love and grant me (and all Your children) power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Christ’s love, and help me know this love that surpasses knowledge–so I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Please work Your power in me, Lord, to bring glory to Your name. You are able to do immeasurably more than anything I could imagine or think to ask for. I put my trust in You. Be glorified.

5) As I go about my day:

a) Thank Him for every blessing I see (large or small).

b) Lift up my concerns to Him (concerns about others or myself), reminding myself that He already has the answers and I just need to trust Him, pray, and wait expectantly.

c) Continually seek His guidance: What do You want me to do right now, Lord? Please help me to do it.

My prayer life is far from perfect. But I’ve found these tools to be helpful in battling distractions. May the Lord continually help us to stay focused on Him!

Devotional: Countless Blessings

I can really relate to John 21:25! “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Journaling is like breathing to me. I love to write down as many things as possible about my daily journey with Jesus: how He blesses me, what He teaches me, etc. The problem is, I have closets full of journals! So, I have decided to only record major answers to prayer and keep everything else between God and myself (unless He leads me to share something). That’s like asking a woman to say very little about her beloved fiancee, but I’m trying!

In marriage, there are many experiences that are kept private between a husband and his wife. It’s the same in a relationship with Jesus. Some things are just too intimate to be shared with anyone else.

Challenge: See how many blessings, large and small, you can count today, and thank the Lord for each one.

A Matter of Perspective

I like to get up early for a time of prayer and Bible reading, while the world is quiet and still. This morning, I was enjoying that quiet until a group of crows started cawing loudly outside my window. My first response was to be annoyed, but then I decided they were just praising the Lord. They can’t help it if they don’t have beautiful voices. I have often been personally thankful for the Bible verse that says to make a joyful noise to the Lord, for, like the crows, I wasn’t blessed with a beautiful voice.

The change in my perspective brought a smile to my face instead of a frown, and joy replaced frustration in my heart. I pray God will help me throughout the day to see things from His perspective instead of mine.

In Nehemiah 8:10, after the people had repented of their sins, they were comforted with these words: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When I allow God to change my heart so that I see things from His perspective, I can experience supernatural joy. That makes the day a lot more pleasant!

Invisible Rainbows

One of the ways God blesses me and brings a smile to my heart and face is through His rainbows–the sign of His promise. Sometimes I’m blessed to see beautiful rainbows in the sky, such as the time I was walking in our neighborhood, crying out to the Lord for a sign of hope regarding my disabled son. As I rounded the corner, I saw a brilliant rainbow shining over his house! Other times, little “rainbows” dance upon the kitchen cupboards or the bedroom door, as the sun reflects off the beveled glass windows, creating colorful prisms.

One day, as I was bustling around the house and praying about certain concerns, I suddenly saw some prism rainbows on the bedroom door. I stopped abruptly and just gazed at them. Tears sprung to my eyes and I dropped to my knees in thanksgiving. God washed away all my concerns and filled my soul with peace as His love washed over me. I watched until the rainbows grew pale, then I got up. An instant later, they were gone. If I had not stopped the moment I saw them, I would have missed out on a priceless experience.

Then a thought came to mind. I know (intellectually) that God loves me and is always with me, but how often do I slow down enough to let His love splash over me? He is continually blessing me, but many times His “rainbows” are invisible and I fail to recognize them because I’m either too busy or too stressed.

O precious Lord, please open the eyes of my heart to see your love touches throughout the day. May I stop long enough to allow Your precious love and peace to flood my soul. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Victory Through Surrender

I have found that it is impossible for me to cheerfully and willingly surrender my desires to the Lord and sacrificially serve others unless two things happen: (a) I have a fresh revelation of how much God loves me and has sacrificed for me, and (b) I ask Him for His power to surrender my desires.

Something once came up that gave me insight into this. I was also reminded that compassion comes through empathy and understanding. I have two friends that I’ll call Sue and Jane. Sue, Jane and I have been friends for many years. Many times, Jane has sacrificially helped us, but it seemed to me like Sue never really saw or appreciated the sacrifices. Sometimes I would try to help Sue see it, but it didn’t seem to register with her.

A situation came up where Sue and I would have an opportunity to serve Jane, but it would require a sacrifice mainly on Sue’s part because she would have to give up doing something she really wanted to do. I decided I would just pray for her, but I was feeling upset that she wouldn’t be willing to make that sacrifice for Jane after all that Jane had done for us. I asked the Lord to help me forgive Sue for her selfishness. Instantly this thought came to my mind: I guess that’s just a tiny taste of how the Lord feels when I’m unwilling to sacrifice for Him in light of all that Jesus has done for me. We all struggle with surrendering our desires, even for those we love. Instantly forgiveness and compassion for Sue flooded my heart.

Note the difference between my sinful, critical reaction and God’s merciful compassion. He was merciful to both Sue and me. He understood Sue’s struggle in surrendering her desires and He understood how blind I was to my own sins (like a critical spirit). In answer to my request for His help in forgiving Sue, God revealed my own struggle with selfishness and laying down my personal desires. Instantly I had empathy and compassion for Sue.

Sweet Lord, I truly want to reflect Your mercy and compassion to others. Please continually remind me to ask for Your help in overcoming my pride and selfishness and flood my heart with Your compassion. Help me to surrender my desires and bring them into alignment with Yours. I want to live the victorious life in the power of Your Spirit. Thank You. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen!

The Grace Place

There are certain Scriptures that have become very real to me since we learned (in August of

2017) that my husband has stage 4 Melanoma cancer.

The first is Matthew 6:34: “Therefore (because God is faithful) do not worry about tomorrow, for

tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

I have been learning that the way to experience God’s grace and supernatural peace is to train

my mind to live in the moment at hand. I haven’t been given the grace for tomorrow. God

gives grace one day at a time. When I stay in the moment, I truly do experience God’s

supernatural peace and even joy. I’m able to praise Him for all the little “love touches” I see.

Surrender is easier in this situation because I KNOW I have no control over the outcome.

 

When I thanked God for this peace and told Him I want His help staying in this place, His answer

was to reveal other areas of my life where I was still trying to be in control, such as our son’s

ministry and some of my relationships. As God helps me to surrender my expectations to

Him and trust Him to work things out according to His plan (which is far superior to mine), I

find that His peace is replacing my striving and stress. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says: “Come to

me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and

learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my

yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When I allow Him to carry my burdens, it’s amazing how

the stress melts away.

 

The other Scripture that has become very real to me is James 4:15: Instead (of boasting about

your plans) say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” Since we can’t predict

how Tom will feel after each treatment, we’ve learned to make what I call “pencil” plans (easily

erasable). The fact that God’s ultimately in control of our plans has become very real to us. I’m

learning to be surrendered and flexible. (This doesn’t come naturally to me.)

 

I find it’s also very difficult to make commitments. For example, I’m hesitant to volunteer my

time unless I know there’s a back up person who can take my place if I can’t make it. I’m going

to have to learn to hear God’s voice more clearly when I’m seeking His will, and trust that He has

a back up plan if I feel led to commit. I have to remember that:

a) If I hear Him wrong and make a mistake, He’s able to work it out.

b) Sometimes He’s simply testing my faith. (For example, He might lead me to accept a

commitment, knowing I won’t be able to keep it, just so He can demonstrate His faithfulness in

providing the solution.)

 

This is scary for me because I take my commitments very seriously. This is an area where God is

stretching my faith. I always wondered how public speakers could commit to something a year

in advance. Clearly, they are further along in their faith walk than I am.

 

So, while I would never choose hardship, I am thankful for how God uses it in my life and I will

prayerfully try to live out what God’s teaching me.

Hannah: A Mother’s Faith

Hannah’s story can be found in the Bible (1 Samuel). In those days, men often had more than one wife. It was also considered a disgrace to be barren. Hannah was barren and she suffered the taunts of her husband’s other wife, who had children.

Hannah cried out to the Lord for a son, promising that if God answered her prayer, she would dedicate her son to the Lord’s service. I doubt that she fully realized what she was promising.

God did, indeed, bless her with a son: Samuel. That began Hannah’s internal struggle because keeping her promise would mean giving her son to the temple priest, Eli. One time, when she had been pouring her heart out to God, in prayer, Eli falsely accused her of being drunk. He also had wicked sons who “had no regard for the Lord.” (That wouldn’t give me much confidence in his parenting skills!)

Hannah wanted to wait until she had weaned her son (which, in those days, could be up to 3 years). Her husband agreed to that but said, “only may the Lord make good his word.” I believe her husband, Elkanah, was being patient and understanding with his wife, and allowing her time to go through the surrender process, but that he also recognized her female frailty and was reminding her of her vow. He probably prayed for her, being the committed man that he was.

And Hannah came through. She told Eli that the Lord had granted her what she had asked for and so “for his whole life he (Samuel) will be given over to the Lord.” Then she began her prayer with, “My heart rejoices in the Lord.” That’s faith!

God honored her faith. Despite being raised by Eli, Samuel became a mighty prophet, priest and judge to the nation of Israel.

No matter how old my children are, it’s never easy to entrust them into God’s care (even though I know He’s a far better parent than I am!) The “letting go” process is continual: their first day of school, when they begin to drive, when they move out, when they get married…and even when they’re on their own, the fervent prayers continue. I’m thankful for role models like Hannah, who entrust their children to God and praise Him in faith!

Serving God Can Bring Surprises

Washington Gladden (1836-1918) was known in his day as an outstanding preacher and advocate of social justice. He did much to fight corruption in that era.

When he wrote the words for “O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee,” it was intended as a devotional meditation. Later, when it was suggested that it be turned into a hymn, he chose a tune by Percy Smith.

In Washington’s life-time, he was widely known for his preaching and writings. Now he is best remembered for this hymn.

We never know fully how God will use us in our life-time or after we’re gone. What we think is so important now may fade with time. Conversely, some of what we consider fairly insignificant acts of service now may be what is remembered most when we’re gone.

Therefore, let us humbly pursue God’s will for us, serve as we feel led, and trust that He will be glorified.