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Following Like Matthias Did

“Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”Acts 1:26

Matthias. He perplexes me. His name is only mentioned three times in the whole Bible—all in the first chapter of Acts where his selection as Judas’ replacement among the twelve apostles is recorded.

DSC00587eIf replacing Judas was such an important thing, why doesn’t anybody tell us what Matthias did once he filled this role? Since the gospels were written after this event and Matthias was chosen because he’d been hanging out with Jesus all along, just like the apostles did, why didn’t any of the Gospel writers mention anything Matthias did during that time—in a foreshadowing kind of way? Who is this unknown apostle and why did Luke feel it necessary to mention him in Acts 1—and nowhere else?

We won’t really know this answer to this question until we get to Heaven, but I think the Bible gives us a few clues. Matthew 19:28 records a promise Jesus made about Heaven. He said, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Later, Revelation 4 records John’s vision of the throne room of Heaven. John writes, “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads” (verse 4). A few verses later, he continues, “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being’” (verses 9-11).

We don’t know for certain who these twenty-four elders are, but theologians speculate that they are probably the twelve sons of Israel (from the Old Testament) and the twelve apostles (from the New Testament).

So what does this tell us about Matthias? Because Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, he was chosen to sit on one of those twelve thrones of Heaven that Jesus told his disciples about. When we get to Heaven, we will see Matthias worshiping God, laying his own crown before Him, and declaring Christ’s worthiness. I’m sure Matthias served Jesus faithfully throughout his life. But the lack of information about this service leads me to believe that Matthias’ service for eternity far outweighs any work he did on earth.

And that leads me to wonder, no, to know that the same is true for each of us. We are living life now in preparation for eternity. We serve God now in training for forever. And if we don’t get any recognition now from friends, associates, or strangers, well, that’s okay because God sees our hearts, knows who is truly faithful, and has a plan for our future in Heaven with Him always.

Judas got a lot of attention while on earth, but in the end, he had to be replaced. I pray we’ll all follow Matthias’ example instead.

Lord, please find us faithful. Teach us to serve quietly with eyes riveted on You. We worship You now in training for eternity. You are worthy, our Creator and King. May our lives forever glorify Your holy name. Amen.

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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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Psalm 18:34 on My Mind

NewOMM“He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”Psalm 18:34

Today we continue our five-week concentration on Psalm 18:32-36 with verse 34. I hope you’re memorizing this passage with me. If not, I pray you’re absorbing some truths from these verses that will firmly stick in your mind. That’s the goal when we meditate on God’s Word. We want to hear from Him and to remember His words to us.

When I first looked at verse 34 today, considering what I wanted to write about it, thoughts of spiritual warfare came to mind. Personally, I don’t need to know the fine points of hand-to-hand combat or how to bend a bow of bronze, but I do need to know how to pray when Satan attacks me, my family, my friends, or my community. We all do! If we ask God to train us for this, He most definitely will. Requests like that are pleasing to Him; He wants us involved in the unseen fight for the souls of all people. He’s their Creator, after all.

I think there’s a deeper truth to this verse, though. David, its author, was a warrior. He wrote Psalm 18 to praise God for delivering him from his enemies, most notably King Saul. David did need to know the fine points of hand-to-hand combat. His life depended on him being able to bend a bow of bronze. In today’s Bible verse, David is recognizing God’s provision for his specific need.

Psalm 18:34Not only did David need these skills at that time–they served him well throughout his life, from his role as a shepherd defending sheep from lions and bears to his role as the King defending God’s people placed in his care. David recognized the truth that God prepares his people to capably complete the tasks He calls Him to do.

God didn’t call me to be a warrior like David. Instead, He called me to read and write and study and teach. When I consider Psalm 18:34, I reflect on the preparation and training and guidance God has given me for this throughout my life. He has led me to jobs and projects and assignments and classes and through experiences that enable me to serve Him wherever I go. He trained me. He graciously gives me whatever skills I need. Reflecting on this, I’m filled with joy, contentment, thanksgiving, and praise.

As you consider Psalm 18:34 this week, I invite you to reflect on how and for what God has trained you. What is your calling? How has God trained you for it? Are you faithfully using the skills He’s granted to you? What work of God in your life are you most thankful for today?

Father, thank You for training us to face what is ahead. You prepare us to do whatever we must. You also grant us skills we need to serve in whatever capacity you’ve called us to. Help us to recognize Your work in our lives and to go, as soon as we’re able, to fulfill each day’s calling. Thank You, as always, for going with us. Without You, we’ve no hope. You are the God of Providence. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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Psalm 18:33 on My Mind

NewOMMLast week I invited you to join me in five weeks with Psalm 18:32-36. We focused on verse 32. Today we’re adding verse 33:

“He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.”Psalm 18:33

Last week I told you that I love this passage because in it, David gives God credit for everything! When we meditate, like David did, on all that God does for us, it’s like wrapping oneself up in a warm, comforting, and secure blanket entirely of God!

Today’s verse focuses on the stability we find in God. Sometimes when we follow Him, He leads us through frightening terrain. Yet He makes us able to handle the journey. He makes our feet like the feet of a deer–sure and steady and able to walk where no person can go. Then God causes us to stand on the heights–able to see where we came from below, yet ever closer to our Lord. When we trust Him by following His lead, He takes us where we’re meant to go.

  • He arms us with strength.
  • He keeps our way secure.
  • He makes our feet like those of a deer.
  • He causes us to stand on the heights.

Father, it’s looking like You do all the work! Thank You for Your care, Your provision, Your protection, and Your presence. We love You, Lord! Amen.

If you need a refresher course on verse 32, click here to view it at BibleGateway.com. To see the whole passage there, click here.

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Psalm 18:32 on My Mind

NewOMM“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”Psalm 18:32

I’m going to do something a little bit different with On My Mind Mondays over the next few weeks. I came across a passage in my quiet time this morning that I would like to memorize. Five verses–five weeks. Could I memorize it faster? Probably. But this passage touched my heart. I want to spend some time with it.

This week I’ll be focusing on Psalm 18:32, above. If you’d like to look ahead at the whole passage, click here to visit BibleGateway.com where you can see all five verses right now.

What is it that I love about this passage? Throughout its words, David gives God credit for everything! God makes him able. God gives him strength. God prepares his path. God trains him for all he must face. God protects and sustains him. God stoops down to make him great!

And God does all of this for each of us, too! Meditating on these verses is like wrapping oneself up in a warm, comforting, and secure blanket entirely of God!

Interesting. That reminds me of St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer, the title of which comes from Ephesians 6:14, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” Yet, the essence of the prayer can be seen in Psalm 18 as well. In case you aren’t familiar with it, here are the words to St. Patrick’s prayer:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ on the deck,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Do you feel it?! A warm, comforting, and secure blanket of God. He arms us with strength and keeps our way secure. He is with us always. He is everything!

Father, we thank You for being everything we need, for surrounding us with Your love, for providing necessary strength and security. As we meditate on David’s words and consider St. Patrick’s prayer, please help us to savor Your presence with us always. We love and need You, Lord! Amen.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! No pinching today–instead show grace and God’s love in honor of Jesus’ name. I think St. Patrick would have liked that better! Me, too.

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Counting Blessings

“I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’” –Psalm 16:2

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings–name them one by one–
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

These words from the sweet, singsong hymn, “Count Your Blessings,” are still true today. When we’re feeling jumbled, tumbled, and tossed about, mixed-up and turned upside-down, remembering our blessings can help to calm our souls and turn us right side-up. This is true because our blessings are gifts from God. Remembering them reminds us that He cares, that He’s still active in our lives, that we can trust Him to provide all we need–and often so much more!

Just as a little child in a crowded mall will take his mother’s hand for security in the midst of many knees, we can count our blessings for assurance that God is still there. If things are so dark that we can’t see any good, we can call on God for help in that area, too. He is our Lord. Apart from Him, we have no good thing. With Him, though, we have everything.

Thank You, Father, for comfort in the midst of strife. I’ll look for the blessings and know they come from You. Amen.

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When You Struggle to Find the Right Words

I don’t know how it is for you, but of all the elements of prayer, I struggle most with worship and praise. It’s not that I don’t feel worship and praise or believe that God deserves all worship and praise. All glory and honor and praise are His! I just sometimes struggle to find the words.

DSC01019eThat seems like kind of a strange comment for a writer to make.

Yet our almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God Who created the whole universe, Who exists in a realm we can only imagine for now, seems so far beyond any words I might be able to arrange as a loving offering to Him.

Thankfully, He doesn’t expect me to live up to my personal perception of what such an awesome God should expect. He gracefully accepts whatever I have to offer when I choose to offer Him my best.

Yet sometimes I still feel stumped. Prayer requests—I’ve got those. Confession—God’s Spirit lets me know what we need to discuss. Intercession—I’m aware of the needs of my friends and family, world, church, and community. Thanksgiving—This one is often mistaken for praise because it’s just so easy to slide from telling God how amazing He is into thanking Him for all He’s done. Thanksgiving is simply counting blessings and giving God due credit for each.

These elements of prayer (requests, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving) are essentially a matter of presenting the facts of each to God, anticipating His response when we have asked for one. Praise and worship, however, requires contemplation, creativity, even a touch of poetry. Praise and worship is a gift! God deserves to hear us express our deep love.

I wonder if David or Solomon or Asaph or any of the other psalmists ever struggled with this. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read some of their first psalm attempts? I wonder if they tried and tossed out some lines from first drafts, playing with the words until they sounded just right. I suspect they probably did!

We may not be able to read those first drafts, but God has given us a collection of their completed projects in the book of Psalms. When we struggle for words of our own, we can read these, pray along with them, and let them prompt words from us. Here’s an example, using the first four verses of Psalm 8 (The words in brackets are mine.):

“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
[People all over the world can see your glory, Lord, just by looking up into the sky!]

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
[Your name alone is so powerful that even the most vulnerable find strength and courage when they praise You.]

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
[I can’t even begin to imagine how big You are, Lord! You’ve held planets in Your hands.]

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”
[And yet You do care! You see each person You’ve created. You even know us intimately.]

DSC01029eWhen we pray this way, we’re agreeing with the psalmist’s words about God, offering extra praises as we think of them. We clarify the psalmist’s thoughts with our own words, cementing the understanding of our amazing God in our minds.

Since psalms are actually hymns or songs, we can also turn to the words in our hymnals for praise and worship words to agree with and expound upon, using the same technique:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” 
Blessed Assurance
[Jesus, Your Presence in my life gives me a taste of Heaven. I’m looking forward to living there with You someday!]

If you don’t own a hymnal of your own, you can Google the words to your favorite hymns and pray from your computer. Better yet, ask your pastor if there happen to be any retired hymnals hanging around in forgotten places at your church. As a pastor’s wife I know first-hand that most churches have some hiding somewhere where they aren’t doing anybody any good. Now that many churches have switched from traditional hymnals to overhead projectors there are even more! Your pastor may let you borrow one or have one to keep. (If your pastor lets you keep it, put a little extra in Sunday’s offering plate.)

[Dear churches that have no-longer-in-use hymnals lying around collecting dust in storage closets, please consider clearing out the clutter by giving them away to members of your congregation for personal worship and praise.]

I have one last praise and worship idea to share with you. This also comes from the Psalms. David wrote many of his psalms while sitting outside watching sheep. We may not have any sheep to watch, but perhaps we have children or pets we take outside from time to time. Or maybe we just like walking or running or sitting in the park and watching or flower hunting. If so, noticing the created world around us will fill our minds with words of worship and praise. If bowing your head and closing your eyes leaves you sitting in the dark with nothing to say, open your eyes and make note of all the wondrous sights around you that reveal the greatness of our amazing God.

Next thing you know, you’ll be writing psalms of your own. And God will be delighted to receive your worship and praise.

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Angel Tag

Parachute Prayer“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” –Psalm 91:11-12

Several years ago, I was lying on the couch reading a great book when my middle son came running through the room at nearly light speed. Our small dog was close on his heels, obviously playing “It” in a serious game of tag. Before Windsor could latch on to Alex’s pant leg, however, Alex hopped up on a wooden chair. I watched in horror as the chair tilted from its usual 90-degree angle to less than 45. I’m pretty sure there’s a law of physics that says a chair pushed to that angle by a fast-moving boy will fall to the floor, carrying the boy with it. To make things worse, the corner of our entertainment center was in the direct path of the boy’s forehead, our TV in line with his shoulder. Catastrophe was inevitable; we were headed to the ER.

The accident never happened, though. I was shocked! As I watched, the chair. just. stopped. moving.

Alex froze in place, looking like a surfer holding himself upright at the top of the perfect wave; then he slowly leaned backward to right the chair. As its legs touched the floor, a big, excited grin spread across my son’s face as he looked at me, his eyes wide with delight.

“Wasn’t that cool?!” he said.

I honestly didn’t know whether to clap or cry. I couldn’t stop a smile of incredulity from spreading across my face, but I did have the presence of mind to show Alex what could have happened, what should have happened, and why he’d better never come that close to making that happen again. When the Bible tells about the work of God’s angels, I know it’s telling the truth. I haven’t actually seen them, but I’ve seen the results of their actions. I’m thankful God sometimes chooses to send them to protect and care.

Today’s Parachute Prayer: When you see small children playing in your neighborhood or grown-ups doing dangerous jobs such as trimming trees or completing construction projects up high, ask God to command his angels to watch over them, to keep them safe from harm.

Father, thank You for the unseen angels who follow Your orders on our behalf. In a world full of danger, their presence is a comfort to us from You. Amen.

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What We Can Control

Ice“I [Jesus] tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” –John 21:18

Sometimes life takes us where we don’t want to go. We don’t always have the choices we would like. Sometimes we just have to muck our way through the mud or creep along the cliffs.

When this happens, though, we do get to choose how we will react. No one can take that option away from us. Circumstances may be beyond our control, but our responses to them never are.

This reminds me of Paul and Silas. In Acts 16:16-34, they were wrongfully beaten and imprisoned. They had no say in what happened to them, but they did get to choose their reaction. Were they bitter and angry, loudly declaring, “This is not fair!”? No. Wounded and chained, they chose to sing and pray. And when a miraculous earthquake set them free, they chose to stay. As a result, the jailer and his family (and probably some of their fellow prisoners) were saved.

Lord, when life takes us where we don’t want to go, help us to respond in a way that honors You. Please use the circumstances of our lives to bring glory to Your name, to draw more of Your children home to You. For this we thank You, Lord! Amen.

This post is linked to Essential Fridays, Faith Filled Friday and Spiritual Sundays.

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John 21:25 on My Mind

NewOMM“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.” –John 21:25

We sang a hymn in church yesterday morning called The Love of God. The imagery in this hymn is incredible! I especially appreciate the third verse:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,

And ev’ry man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.

Can you picture it?

We can see the idea in action today—not with parchment or ink, but right here on-line. Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve found so many other Christian blogs written by people who just love to proclaim the works of God. Add Google+, Twitter, and Facebook to the mix, and you’ll find a steady stream of praises 24/7. This is true!

I’m not recommending that you spend all your time on-line. Quite the contrary, in fact. I just think it’s amazing that so many people are taking the time during the day to drop everything for just a moment, post a good word about our great God, then go back to their routine, so that, all together, the praises just keep flowing.

John wrote what he could, his messages contained in five of the Bible’s books. In today’s verse, he implies that he couldn’t write everything he wanted to—wouldn’t have been able to if he tried. Yet he wrote what he felt was most essential in order to introduce us to the Jesus he knew—his Savior, his friend—so Jesus could be ours, too.

Since then, evidently, God continues to compel His people to tell others all about all the things He has done, things He continues to do—because He loves us so and longs to draw all who will come into His eternal kingdom.

This week, I invite you to memorize John 21:25 with me. As you do, watch for opportunities to proclaim the good things God is doing in your life. Let’s not only attempt to drain the ocean and cover the sky, fill books and take over cyberspace, but also to fill the hearts and minds of the people God brings into our lives—Then they can joyfully help us continue the work on this on-going task for the glory of God’s name.