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God’s Grand Gift of Life

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV

My father-in-law sent me roses for Mother’s Day this year. He knows that without me, he’d have no grandkids. And that man loves those boys!Mother's Day Roses

The blooms on the roses lasted about a week. As they started to droop, I removed them from the vase, a few at a time, leaving the strongest roses for last. As I was getting ready to toss the final three roses, however, I noticed that their stems had developed new growth! Curious to see what they would do, I decided to leave them alone. By the next day, though, the new growth had expanded considerably. I wondered what would happen if we planted them in the yard.New Growth

My youngest son was home from college and my oldest and his wife were visiting at the time. They got excited about the experiment, too. (Once a homeschool family—always a homeschool family, I suppose.) I clipped the dead blooms from the stems. Seth planted them in the yard. Justin arranged shelters of landscaping pine needles to protect them from the heat. My husband used the experiment as a sermon illustration on hope.

PlantedYes. We were hoping new roses would grow. But we were skeptical. And the heat, up to 90 degrees that week, was discouraging. We’d moved the plants from a bowl of water in an air-conditioned house to dry ground under a hot sun.

And, technically, since they’d been removed from their original bush, weren’t they already dead?

A week later, two of three were gone. But one continues to grow! It’s even sprouted a new branchlet! My father-in-law may have sent me a rose bush for Mother’s Day. Thank you, Dad! This has been fun.

Now you have to understand, I do not have a talent for making things grow. My grandfather had the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen, but so far, as far as I know, none of his descendants have inherited his gift. I let other people grow flowers, then I take pictures of them and console myself with the joy of preserving their beauty that way.Growing

I didn’t make my roses grow either. I received the roses as a gift. I watched them sprout. I told my son, and he planted them. I watched, watered and pruned. Someday, hopefully, I’ll have a new picture of a home-grown flower to show.

This is how our spiritual lives grow!

  • We start out dead in our sins and cut off from God.
  • We open the door to receive God’s gift of salvation through Christ.
  • Our spirits take root in the soil of God’s love and begin to grow.
  • God’s Spirit nurtures them, allowing us to help through Spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, worship, and fellowship.
  • Our lives begin to bear fruit, showing others what God can do which builds His Kingdom and glorifies His name!

If my family and I are having so much fun watching a little rose clipping grow, imagine the joy of our Savior as we grow in Him each day. His Spirit does all the work, but let’s nurture it as He directs and watch blooms develop, open, and show.

What we're hoping to find someday!

What we’re hoping to find someday!

Thank You, Lord, for bringing life from death, for salvation from sin and the opportunity to glorify and praise Your name. Keep nurturing these little plants as we stay firmly rooted in You. May our lives display Your work and bring honor to Your name. We love You, Lord! Amen.

I’m sharing today’s post with: Imparting Grace, Faith Filled Friday, Fellowship Fridays, Friendship Friday, and Essential Fridays.

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Relying on God for Everything

Wildflower Thoughts“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Psalm 147:10-11, NIV

I’m so proud of me! Yesterday I went to our local home improvement store all by myself with Seth, my youngest son. I picked out paint and brushes and hardware and everything else that Mike and my dad told me I’d need to refurbish my kitchen cabinets. I’m a do-it-yourself-er now! Next time I walk into that store, they’ll treat me with respect instead of like someone who must have gotten lost and wandered in by mistake.

I’m only kidding. I know very well that my kitchen project isn’t going anywhere without the help of my son, designated contractor on the project, and the advice of my husband and dad. I’m just the visionary and assistant. I even needed help at the home improvement store. Did you know you can’t just grab a can of paint off the shelf like you do a box of cereal at the grocery store?

But don’t we like to believe we’re self-reliant? From the time we’re toddlers, we’re trying to prove we can do things by ourselves. Our parents found this amusing when they weren’t impatient or exasperated.

QTH 3God, however, is not impressed.

God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what we can and can’t do. He doesn’t expect us to prove our worth to Him. Rather, He wants us to recognize His worth. We honor Him when we place our confidence in Him.

Psalm 147:10 names a few things we’re tempted to rely on other than God: the strength of other things that we allow to carry us and ourselves. On the day that I read this verse, I stumbled across reference after reference to people and things we often choose to depend on: spouse, extended family, friends, money, belongings, addictions, complaints.

Complaints? Yes. Sometimes in our desperation, we complain about our situation, hoping that someone will hear of our plight and rescue us. When we do this, we’re putting our confidence in our own words to force desired change. Maybe this is why Philippians 2:14 commands us to “do everything without complaining and arguing” (NLT).

I’m not saying that we should sit back and do nothing, waiting for change to occur. When there is work to be done, we must do our part. We must do so, however, with an awareness of the One Who is really in charge, our Source of strength and wisdom, our Guide, our Provider, our Teacher, our Lord. He’s the Visionary and the Contractor. We’re just the assistants who do as we’re told, trusting in our God’s unfailing love.

Father, help us to place and keep our trust in You for all we need. If ever we’re tempted to rely on someone or something else, please make us aware of what we’re doing. We realize it’s good for us to do what we can, whatever You’ve enabled us to do. It’s also good for us to ask for help when we need it from the people You’ve placed in our lives. Ultimately, however, our confidence must remain in You, the One Who loves us fully and is able to give us everything we’ll ever need. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Giving God Time to Heal Our Wounds

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.'”Luke 10:41-42, NIV

“Be still, and know that I am God.”Psalm 46:10, NIV

A few weeks ago, God pointed out an unhealed wound that should have been taken care of long ago. He let me know He’s ready to heal it; I’ve been trying to ignore it, you see.

California PoppyThe problem, though, with ignoring an emotional wound is that you still feel the pain. Figuratively, you slap a bandage on it, so you won’t see it. Then you cover that bandage with a cast to protect it. You lock yourself in a room, so to speak, so no outside force can cause more pain; then you surround that room with an impenetrable wall. Finally, you dig a tunnel under the whole thing, creating a bomb-shelter-type panic room that totally isolates you from anyone or anything who can cause you more pain. But none of it helps because the pain is inside you–and the wound is festering.

As God revealed the problem, I prayed, “Lord, I agree. I’m broken. Please fix me.” He kept sending gentle reminders. I kept praying the same prayer, expecting God to act. Until Monday morning in the middle of my quiet time, when God responded by pressing this thought into my head: “I’m trying to help you, Janet! But you won’t sit still!”

I almost laughed out loud as I realized the absolute truth of that statement. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a good Martha scolding. But God showed me I needed it this time. Even my quiet time with God has developed an agenda, a to-do list for the time. Some days God calls me to look at something a little more closely, and I’ll pray, “Sorry, Lord, I’d love to talk with You more about that point, but time’s up. We must move on for now.” I’m pretty sure that makes God sigh.

How did I slip so subtly into that?! No wonder that wound hasn’t healed.

If our car has a problem, we don’t expect the mechanic to come to us, strap himself onto the bottom of the car, and do his job underneath while we drive the car down the road. If our appendix bursts, we won’t expect the surgeon to operate while we type at our computer or wash dishes at the sink.

No. That would just be absurd–and seriously painful.

Just the same, when we suffer an emotional wound, we must make time to sit in God’s presence to let Him deal with it.

That same Monday when I felt like God was scolding me, I read a chapter in Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. Each chapter explains a different kind of prayer. That day I read about the prayer of rest. Such perfect timing! This prayer involves sitting quietly in God’s presence, listening for His voice. As we do so, outside stresses will come to mind, things that normally demand our attention, claiming urgency. And as each one arises, we choose to let it go, giving God all rights to our time. It’s only when we’ve let all other claims to our attention go, that we’ll discover genuine rest in God’s presence. That’s when healing can begin.

And the process will go much more quickly and involve less pain if we’ll simply take our wounds to Jesus while they’re still fresh or merely bandaged instead of waiting for Him to coax us out of underground panic rooms. Thankfully, He hates to see His children hurt. He seeks us out with gentle reminders of the work we must let Him do.

Lord, thank You for calling us to be still, to know that You are God, and to let You do Your healing work in our lives. You are our Lord, exalted above all things! You are also our loving, heavenly Father Who cares. Whenever we hurt, please call us to come to You first. When we’re broken, You long to fix us. Yet You will wait until we are still. Thank You, Lord, for Your patient, yet persistent work. We love You so! Amen.

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Praying for Flowers That Matter to Bloom

IrisesI love finding surprise flowers growing in my yard. I have no idea where these came from, but I’m treasuring the gift.

I’m getting impatient, though! I’ve been waiting three days for them to fully open up, to show their glory in the bright sunlight. Earlier this year, two different bunches of daffodils started to open just before the weather changed. One bloomed beautifully just in time to be destroyed by a sudden downpour. The other was buried in snow before it ever had a chance to show its splendor. I’m hoping the weather doesn’t turn ugly on these. Even now, I can see their potential. These are going to be gorgeous!

These flower thoughts are leading me to think of people I know today. God inspired several authors in the Bible to compare people’s lives to flowers: Isaiah, Job, David, Solomon, James, and Peter–to name a few. Even Jesus used the analogy. I’m thinking of Peter’s (which quotes one of Isaiah’s) today:

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.'”1 Peter 1:23-24

In light of eternity, our lives are as brief and as fragile as the flowers in my yard. Some people live very short lives. It seems they move on into eternity before their lives bloom fully. Others live a long time but refuse to bloom at all. I have several like this in my yard right now. The green part of the plant came up, but the flowers have yet to show. For whatever reason, they probably won’t this year. That is just as tragic as being squashed before the bloom. And then, of course, there are the ones whose flowers reach their full potential, so we can enjoy them for a little while before they die.

People don’t get to choose the length of their life. They don’t really get to choose what their flower looks like either; God gives people their appearance, personality traits, abilities, interests, and such, then they work with what they have. But people do get to choose whether or not they will reach for the sun (be saved through Christ), drink in the rain (listen to God’s Spirit by reading God Word, praying continually, and worshiping with God’s people), and do all they can to become what God created them to be (practice spiritual disciplines, so they can know God and live in tune with His will).

All people alive on earth right now are somewhere in the process of that choice! And God, their Creator, is waiting in anticipation, along with all the hosts of Heaven, I’m sure, to see each person bloom!

Just stop for a moment and try to imagine that. I’ll wait. Close your eyes and picture it right now: God watching in earnest anticipation to see you reach your potential in Him.

I’m thankful that God is patient. He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). “He is patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

After we are born again, God wants us to continue to grow and mature. He wants us to grow in grace, in righteousness, in knowledge, in wisdom, in unity, in love, in Christ! All of these add to the beauty of our bloom, but salvation, as Peter explains in 1 Peter 1:23-24 is the most important thing. Our lives are short. If we bloom gloriously on earth without Christ as our Savior, then it’s all for nothing when we die. But if we’re born again, of imperishable seed (Jesus Christ), then we’ll share God’s glory forever whether or not our petals have a chance to bloom in this world.

The ideal progression:

  1. We’re born again in Christ and start to grow in Him now.
  2. We reach for the sun, drink in the rain, and do all we can to become whatever God has created us to be while we’re on earth.
  3. God takes us to Heaven where we share in His glory by His grace throughout eternity.

Let’s pray for all people as God waits patiently. He won’t wait forever. Let’s pray for God’s flowers to bloom!

Wildflower ThoughtsFather, remind us to pray regularly for all the people we know. Some are striving to bloom on earth without Your Son. Thank You for Your patience with them. Please make Yourself known and open their hearts to Your truth. Others know You and are growing. Help these to reach their potential. Help their lives to bloom brightly and glorify Your name. Still others feel they have done all they can and are waiting to go home. As they linger, according to Your timing, will, and perfect plan, draw them ever closer to You. As long as we’re breathing, that’s the ultimate reason why. We long to know You better as we wait to meet You face to face in eternity someday. In Jesus’ name, amen.

This post is linked to A Little R & R and Fellowship Fridays.

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Braking for Squirrels

Wildflower ThoughtsThere are a lot of squirrels in our neighborhood. I like them. Family members know I think of the ones that visit my yard as pets. This, they don’t understand.

“They’re vermin,” they’ll tell me. “People exterminate them.”

Not if they live in my yard, they don’t!

Besides, I know all about Cinderella and Snow White. Sometimes, having furry rodents for friends can work in your favor.

One day, a few years back, I was driving out of our neighborhood with my youngest son riding in the passenger seat. Suddenly a baby squirrel darted in front of us. I gently stopped the truck to let the cute, little critter pass. (Seth says I slammed on the brakes, but he’s wrong. And Daddy, if you’re reading this, I know you’ll take his side, but really, I gently stopped the truck. This is true—this time.)

The squirrel hesitated, so I said, “Go ahead, Baby. Cross the road.” Seth’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped, and he looked at me like I’d absolutely . . . lost . . . my . . . mind.

The squirrel stood up to look at me, too. He cocked his head curiously. I think he was trying to decide if I was friend or foe. (Or maybe he had a little power complex and wanted to enjoy the thought of suddenly stopping such a big truck all by himself. No—he was too sweet. I’m sure that wasn’t it at all.)

“It’s okay,” I said, waving him across. “Go ahead.” He did; he safely crossed the road.

Seth looked at me incredulously and shook his head. “That was wrong, Mom. That was just wrong.”

I smiled and wondered, “Do they make bumper stickers that say, ‘I brake for squirrels.’?”

The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin has corrupted all people. It has turned us into vermin awaiting extermination (or, more accurately, eternal banishment from God’s Presence by our choice not to trust in Him).

But God loved us so much that He sent His Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it. (See John 3:16-17.) Through His own death, Jesus stops the extermination truck for all who trust in Him. When we look to Him in faith, He gives us a nod and waves us across, “It’s okay. Go ahead!” He invites us to safely join the Kingdom of God with assurance we will live eternally with Him.

I think I feel a power complex coming on. But it’s okay. It’s Christ—no power of my own. None at all. No, no. (Consider 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 12:9, and Galatians 2:20.) I trust in the One Who can stop the great, big death truck for me—and for everyone else on this human life journey.

Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Note: Clicking the highlighted Bible verse references will take you to Bible Gateway where you can read the verses for yourself, read them in context, and find study helps for learning more about God’s Word.

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In Search of Little Birds This Christmas

Note: This is a repost from my original blog, Wildflower Thinking. The event that follows took place in 2008, but the lesson seems especially appropriate for this busy Christmas season. Let’s all be careful to watch for little birds this year.

Our family was leaving the mall. Mike opened the door, and I noticed something flopping around underneath it. As I followed Mike out, I looked more closely and realized I wasn’t imagining things—it really was a little bird. “Oh, no!” I yelped as Mike closed the door, running over the confused bird again.

I knelt down quickly, oblivious to the fact that I was now in the path of the door and about to be run over myself. Mike ran interference while figuring out why his wife had suddenly lost all common sense. He started nudging the bird with his foot.

“What are you doing?” I asked, quite alarmed.

Mike rolled his eyes. “I’m moving the bird away from the door, so he won’t get run over again.” (He’s pretty smart, that man.) Then he looked around to see where to safely direct the bird. (He did this all for me, you know! Either that, or he knew he’d never get home until we’d taken good care of the bird.)

Realizing the nearest bush was several feet away and that kicking the bird that far would probably do more harm than good, we did the next best thing. We told Seth to pick up the bird. (Yes—it was a classic LIFE cereal moment. “I’m not picking up that bird.” “Well, I’m not picking up that bird.” “Let’s get Seth to pick up the bird! Hey, Seth!”) Seth picked up the bird, I took pictures, we introduced the bird to its new refuge spot—all was well with the world, we could go home. Mike was still rolling his eyes.

So now I’m wondering how many other little birds we carelessly run over as we go about our daily routine. I’m not talking about real birds anymore—though we almost missed the one at the mall! How many hurting people do we cross paths with every day who feel constantly run over by life? They’re standing there stunned and confused as people walk on by, pushing them aside without even realizing they’re there. How many people do we talk to regularly, maybe even at church, who need, not just small talk, but a true listening ear or a nudge toward safety? God can use us to help people if we’ll notice who’s flopping around.

Lord, You know that I can’t save every little bird, but open my eyes that I will see to help where I can. Make me aware. Remind me to stop and take time to express genuine care. There’s nothing more important that I have to do today. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Essential Fridays and Spiritual Sundays.

Special Announcement: The Kindle version of my new book, Home Is Where God Sends You, is on sale this week. Click here to purchase your copy.

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No More Taxes!

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“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” -Psalm 95:2, NIV

The popcorn tax was first to be recognized as such. Then pizza. Bananas. Apples. Anything I use a spatula to cook.

That last one was put into effect when I accidentally flipped some stir fry out of the pan and onto the floor where the DRS discovered it and decided he wanted more . . . and more . . . and more.

That formidable DRS: Dog Revenue Service. Whenever we eat, he plants himself down in front of us and stares, patiently demanding his portion. Sometimes those eyes say, “Aren’t I so adorable you feel compelled to share with me?” or “Don’t you feel guilty enjoying that while I sit here all hungry-like and watch?” More often, they say, “I’m entitled to my portion of your food. Hand it over now.”

I blame my grandmother. Windsor was content to eat dog food until she came to visit us in the Netherlands during his puppyhood. We told her he could only have dog food. Vet’s orders, we said. She quietly slipped him some mashed potatoes under the table anyway. We caught her in the act, but irreparable damage was already done. Ever since, our doggie has demanded his due.

“But he likes it,” she said. I’m still rolling my eyes.

Now Windsor has discovered green beans and broccoli. It’s time for this taxation without representation to stop! Windsor is the dog. He lives in our house by invitation, not obligation. We choose to feed him and care for him because we want to. Windsor needs a change of attitude: Thanksgiving for all we choose to share in place of stubborn demands for what he wants.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving (and now seems to be usurping that holiday). Our ancestors set one day of the year aside for thanking God for all He’s given. Satan would rather our hearts be full of greed. So now we spend Thanksgiving Day planning how we’ll get more stuff.

Maybe that last paragraph was a little harsh. I know we’re not all like that. It’s more of a societal generalization. But I long to see this trend turn around. If everything we have is a gift from God, we should celebrate Thanksgiving every single day! (–without over-stuffing our guts.)

God doesn’t owe us anything.

We’re not entitled to a portion of what’s His.

He graciously provides all we need and more just because He wants to. He simply adores us.

Stop.

Let that last sentence sink in: He simply adores us.

We don’t need anything more.

Father, please forgive me when I take my eyes off You and turn my focus to wants. You are all I need. Help me to trust that the gifts You offer are more than enough for me. Help me to thankfully enjoy what You bring into my life and not to fret over what’s not there. I may ask for things, but I’ll try not to sit and stare, insisting You meet my demands. You are God, the Creator, and You chose to make me! Thank You, loving Father. Amen.

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Climbing Higher

Climbing Rock“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me.” –Psalm 94:18

I tried rock climbing once. My senior class in college took a trip to Yosemite National Park where the rock-climbing club from our campus volunteered to give a lesson to those who were interested. It looked easy enough.

It wasn’t.

Swaddled in harness and ropes, I began my ascent, quickly realizing that the strength I needed would have to come from my fingers and arms–every little muscle in each would be required for the task. My legs existed for balance and support as my hands sought a sure grip for lifting myself to the next level. Halfway up the rock face, I thought I could go no further. I felt exhausted, but had to go on. I began to rely on a voice from above.

That’s where my instructor was.

Below, I could hear friends, my fellow first-time climbers, shouting much needed encouragement as I struggled through my shaky situation. But my instructor was giving the advice I most wanted to hear:

“Move your hand a few inches to the left, Janet. There’s a great handhold there. Do you see it? There! Now place your foot in that crevice and push yourself up. Keep going! Now move your other hand to that small ledge just above the other one. You’ve got it!”

I depended on these words and followed them as precisely as I could. Of everything he said, though, the words that comforted me most were:

“Don’t be afraid. If you start to slip, I’ve got hold of the rope. You will not fall.”

Life is like that climb. We lift ourselves up, one handhold at a time, while listening to that precious Voice from Above. Our fellow climbers shout encouraging words as we make our way to the top. God’s voice is the One to listen for, though. He is there to help us find our way. Better yet, He’s got hold of the rope. We can depend on Him; if our feet start to slip, He’ll never let us fall.

Precious Guide, thank You for holding me tightly with the harness and rope of Your love. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.

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Strength for More Than a Game

Salmon Flowers“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ . . . From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” –Ephesians 4:11-13, 16

Raise your hand if you remember Red Rover, Red Rover, the infamous, school playground game.

I truly hope there aren’t too many of you who do. I remember the day when the playground monitor came out to stop us from playing it and to tell us that the school had decided it was just too dangerous. Someone was going to get their arm pulled out of its socket—or worse!

Part of my then ten-year-old self was outraged that the school would stop us from having so much fun. A bigger part, a part I kept quiet at the time, was oh-so-relieved!

That game was absolutely terrifying!!!

For those who’ve been blessed to have never heard of it:

Two teams line up facing each other on opposite sides of the playing field. Children on each team link arms to make a chain. One team yells, Red Rover, Red Rover send [unfortunate child from the other team] right over. That unfortunate child, often me (I’ll explain why in a minute.), then has to run as fast as she can across the field to try to break through the other team’s chain. If she succeeds, she triumphantly gets to choose one member of the opposite team to join her team. If she fails, she gets caught up in the chain like a convict snagged at the top of a barbed wire fence. Then, when everyone finishes laughing over this child’s humiliation, she reluctantly becomes part of the team she failed to break through. The other team then takes their turn, hopefully not calling the same, unfortunate child back.

Why was I often that unfortunate child? Because I was little. Think about it. A smart team is not going to call the big, football-player-type kid to come hurling at them as fast as he can from clear across the field. No. They’re going to call the child least likely to break through, aka the little girl.

On the flip side, the child who is running across the field is not going to try to break through between two giant, playground jocks whose arms are solidly linked. No. That child is going to try to break through two little girls. That’s right. Me and my best friend, Anne. If we weren’t the runners, we were targets, bracing ourselves for the on-coming blow and praying it wouldn’t hurt too much.

Oh, yeah. We were sorry to see that game go.

Spiritual warfare is kind of like that game of Red Rover. Satan is always looking for the weak link in the Body of Christ. He targets it and throws everything he has as it, hoping to break through to claim someone for his side. But as the Body of Christ, we are one. We are joined and held together by supporting ligaments. We are growing and building ourselves up in love as each of us does our work.

I see two ways this works:

1. Just as someone who wants to excel at a physical sport will eat right, exercise often, and get plenty of rest before a game, Christians train for spiritual warfare.

I don’t think either Anne or I could have built ourselves up enough to stand against the playground jocks in a game of Red Rover. No protein-rich, muscle-building diet or amount of strength-training would have made much of a difference for us. We were just too small. (And we didn’t take the game that seriously!)

But Christians can build themselves up. Bible study is our healthy diet. Prayer, worship, and fellowship with other Christians are essential strength-training. Honoring the Sabbath assures we rest.

2. Just as a team must work together, with every member contributing his or her strengths, Christians help each other succeed.

Think about that game of Red Rover. What if, just once, instead of leaving Anne and I to stand alone against the oncoming runner, one of stronger players on our team had linked arms between us. That person’s strength added to ours might have made the difference to keep the other team from breaking through. Evidently, we weren’t smart enough to figure that out in grade school. (Or maybe, at ten, we were still afraid of cooties.)

But we Christians can apply the principle now. By serving one another in love, we help the weaker links among us to be built up and grow. The whole body benefits when we strengthen each other this way.

We build ourselves up through Bible study, worship, fellowship, and prayer. We build the body through faithful service to our brothers and sisters in Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Father, thank You for drawing us together in Christ as one body of believers. Help us do our part each day for individual and community growth. In You, we stand firm against the enemy. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

To read more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays and Hear It on Sunday; Use It on Monday.

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Thank You, Lord, for Significance

Red Flower“Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah.”–1 Chronicles 1:1-3

While researching my husband’s family tree, I learned of a genealogical society that had done extensive research about families in the area his family came from. I was able to order pamphlets recording their research about specific family names. I expected one that I ordered to provide information about my mother-in-law’s birth family. In that pamphlet, I found the name of her birth mother, with information about her parents and grandparents, etc.–just as I had hoped. I also found information about this ancestor’s second marriage and the children from both marriages. But this woman’s first husband was missing from the record; my mother-in-law’s birth father had been overlooked.

This man married, fathered four children, and then died in Italy during World War II–before his fourth child, my mother-in-law, was born. He was only 26 when he died. Perhaps that explains why the historians missed him. To my family, however, he’s significant. His children, their children and grandchildren would not exist if this man had not lived, even if only for 26 years. Further, my life and many others could not possibly be the same without the impact of this man’s descendants on us. His life had meaning; he mattered—big time!

You matter, too. The book of 1 Chronicles begins with several lists of names, names, and more names–hard to pronounce, in most cases, significance lost to the past. But God remembers each one. His children matter, that includes you. Perhaps at this time, you’re feeling overlooked and insignificant. God has a place for you. He hasn’t forgotten. He’ll never forget. He gave you life, and He wants you to live! Live for Him today.

Lord, to think that among all the world’s people–past, present, and future–somehow I matter to You! I’ll show my thanks by serving You. You matter most! Amen.

To learn what some others are thankful for today, visit the Counting Our Blessings Link Up.