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Appreciating a Good Day

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.” -2 Kings 19:14

Father, it’s been a really bad day—I mean really, really, really bad. I’m ready to move to Australia with Alexander. Or maybe Montana will do. Seriously, Lord. Everything has gone wrong. Everything! So I’m dropping everything right now and coming to You. Please turn this day around. Please let the rest of this day be good.

Didn’t you just talk with Your mom?Appreciating a Good Day

I did!

What part of everything going wrong was that?

Conflicted pause for thought.

Okay, Lord, that part was actually, pretty good. We talked about all kinds of random things and nothing of particular importance and just enjoyed each other’s company for a while. I’m really glad she called.

So not everything has gone wrong today.

Well, no. Not that. But everything else, Lord! It’s been an exceptionally hard day.

So you didn’t enjoy that lesson I taught you during quiet time?

Oh! I forgot about that! That was so good, Lord. Every passage I read emphasized a different aspect of the same thing. I love it when You orchestrate a lesson that way! I’m still processing it.

I can tell. And what did you do after that?

I ran! Five and half miles today! I think I’ve finally recovered the stamina I lost during our move.

And what did you say to me while you were running those miles?

Oh. I was listening to Mandisa’s Good Morning. My MP3 player chose it twice today! She sang, “I went to bed dreaming. You woke me up singing,” and I said, “Thank You, Lord! This truly is a good morning.”

I remember that. So this is how you define a really, really, really bad, let’s-move-to-Montana day?

Silence

Lord, I guess there’ve only been a few rough moments, and I guess I let them get to me. I’m sorry about that. Thank You for helping me to see that this day, this day You’ve given me, is good. Thanks for Your presence and Your patience. And thank You for meeting with me. As I continue on from here, help me to focus on the good—even as I muddle my way through whatever frustrations may come. I love You, Lord. Amen.


Whether we’re receiving devastating news, like Hezekiah did (Click here to read the story.), or encountering more obstacles than anticipated in a given day, it’s good to know we can stop and spread our problems out before the Lord. He’s already aware of what’s going on. He’s ready to offer assistance, wisdom, and, sometimes, a gentle nudge into a better perspective. We just have to remember to take our troubles to Him.

Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Making the Most of God-Given Opportunities

Thanking God for Opportunities“I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.”1 Kings 14:8-9

I found a gentle reminder in this verse. God gives us opportunities. We choose to make the most of them for His glory and our good—or not. David chose to follow God with all his heart. Jeroboam, the king being spoken to in the above verses, did not. As a result, God did not allow Jeroboam’s family to continue to rule. In fact, a challenger rose up to wipe the family out. (See 1 Kings 15:27-30.)


As parents, we give our children opportunities. We want them to succeed in life. We want what’s best for them. Our children, however, get to choose how to use those opportunities. When they’re young, we offer them healthy meals. They choose to eat them and grow strong (and maybe get dessert when they’re through) or to skip the broccoli, miss out on its benefits, and deal with our frustration. When they’re older, we may offer to help finance their college education. But they’ll choose whether to work hard and make the most of the opportunity or to squander it and fail.

When our children reject or waste an opportunity, we may feel responsible. As we watch our children suffer the consequences of poor decisions, we may wonder if maybe we shouldn’t have offered the opportunity to begin with. But the truth is our children are responsible for their own choices. If they do well, the credit belongs to them—though some of it usually rubs off on us. If they do poorly, that’s on them, too—though, again, fair or not, this often falls on us as well. Thankfully, God knows the truth one way or another—and He understands better than any other.

God gave David an opportunity. David chose to honor God—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5). God honored David in return, establishing a Kingdom that would stand in spite of the failings of David’s descendants.

Likewise, God gave Jeroboam an opportunity. Jeroboam chose to squander it. As a result, people who read the story sometimes question why God gave Jeroboam the opportunity in the first place. We don’t know the answer to that question. We only know that God gave Jeroboam an opportunity, and Jeroboam messed up. The failure is Jeroboam’s. God’s Kingdom stands without this man.

Let’s go back to that gentle reminder. God gives us opportunities just like He gave David and Jeroboam opportunities. He also gives us the freedom to choose how we will use them. Today let’s spend some time thinking about the opportunities God has given to us. Let’s consider how we’re using them, whether or not we’re doing the best we can with what we have to follow and honor God. Are we people after God’s own heart or are we going our own way? The choice comes with the gift.


Father, thank You for all the opportunities You give to us. Help us to show our gratitude by using them in ways that honor You. Please search our hearts and reveal to us any selfish or wicked ways. We want to follow You like David did. Help us live lives that glorify Your name. Amen.

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Because He Said So

When we become parents, we vow we’ll never say it. Our parents said it and drove us crazy. We decide we will not do that to our kids. We’re more patient, more creative, more understanding than that. We determine that our kids won’t hear that phrase coming from our lips.

But then the day comes when they ask for something they can’t have.

We say, “No.”

They say, “Why?”

We patiently explain.

They look at us with big, sad eyes and ask, “But why?”

We try again to explain.

They get frustrated, stomp their feet, and ask again, “But why?”

And before we know what’s happening, those four little words come out of our mouths of their own volition:

“Because I said so.”

And suddenly we understand. Our parents weren’t being impatient, uncreative, or insensitive. They desperately wanted us to understand the why, so we’d accept the disappointing answer and not be unhappy with them, so we’d trust that they were doing their job as parents and choosing the best for us—even when it hurt.

But sometimes, kids, still learning and experiencing and maturing, just cannot understand. That’s why they’re still kids, living under our roofs, dependent on our care. “Because I said so” has to be enough for them. Someday they’ll thank us for it. (We hope.)

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” This is God’s (through Moses) “Because I said so” to the Israelites. They were still relatively new to this whole being-God’s-chosen-people thing and there was much about Him and His plan that they could not understand. Moses assured them that, though God had the right to not tell them everything, He had told them everything they needed to know. He told them Who He Is. He told them what they could expect from Him. He told them what He expected from them. Their job was to obey the law He’d given and to trust Him with the rest.

For. Their. Own. Good.

God maintains His rightGod has revealed so much more of Himself and His plan since that time. Thanks to Jesus, we know things the Israelites couldn’t have imagined. Yet God still maintains the right to keep secret things. We won’t always know why. There’s much we cannot understand. Sometimes Because I said so has to be enough.

But we do know that God loves us and that all His plans for us are good. He has told us Who He Is. He has told us what we can expect from Him and what He expects from us. He has even sent His Spirit to help us in our quest to live His way. Our job is to follow His Son and trust Him with whatever we can’t yet understand.

Better yet, He’s given us His Word. As we study it, His Spirit helps us to grow in wisdom and understanding. Just as our children grow in knowledge, experience, and maturity, so do we. We’ll never understand everything, for only God is God. But as we faithfully study and pray, God will reveal what He wants us to know. Let’s thank Him now instead of waiting until someday.

Father, there is no one like You Who understands all things. Therefore please help us, Your beloved children, to trust You. When Because I said so is the only answer we can handle in our humanity, help us to be thankful for what You have revealed. Help us to follow Your Son’s ways. We’re so thankful to be Your children. Please teach us what we need to know, so our lives will please You. For our good and Your glory! In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Full Life

SnapdragonsThe thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –John 10:10

Jesus came that we might have life–full life, also known as abundant life, life overflowing with blessings from above. When I think about this statement that Jesus made, I often think of eternal life–in Heaven, with Jesus, some day. But I think Jesus meant more than that. I know that life–with Him, on Earth, right now–is richer because of His presence. When I let Him, He helps me see troublesome things in a more positive way by reminding me that He’s in control and working for good in spite of the bad. Jesus also helps me enjoy the real significance of life’s blessings: they are gifts from Him.

Unfortunately, there is a thief out there waiting to steal, kill, and destroy my positive outlook and joy. He doesn’t want me to be happy, now or ever, and will grab any opportunity to mess with my friendship with Christ. When problems come, this con artist tries to discourage and depress. When all is well, he tries to make me forget from Whom the good times came.

Thankfully, Jesus warned us about this troublemaker as He promised full life. If we focus on Him, He’ll protect us from the thief. He’ll stand by us when life seems dark or sad. He’ll send reminders of His love through good and bad, surprising us with blessings we’d never expect. We need only look to Jesus to enjoy abundant life.

Jesus, You came to give me life–a life that begins right now! I’ll count on You to protect me from the thief, while thanking You for every good thing that I see. Your friendship comes first. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Loving Just Because

The Four LovesI started reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis this week. I’m still working through the introductory material, but I’ve already gained so much insight into this word, Love. Today’s revelation was so powerful, I’d like to share it, and some of the practical applications that came to my mind as I read, with you.

In the pages I read today, Lewis was discussing what he considers to be the lowest form of love, pleasure. He identified two kinds: Need-Pleasures and Pleasures of Appreciation. We only experience the first kind of pleasure when a need is being met. For example, as a general rule, I don’t enjoy drinking water, but if I’m really, really thirsty, finally being able to drink water will be a pleasurable experience because it meets a need. On the other hand, if I’m walking on the beach with my bare toes in the sand and a cool breeze with a slight smell of salt comes up to touch my face and play with my hair, I will enjoy that, not because I need it but because I appreciate the gift, the existence of the breeze. I like carrots if I’m hungry. I like chocolate because it tastes good. I like air-conditioning in the summer because it keeps me cool. Once the need is met, however, I don’t like it so much. Wildflowers, I like all the time. Just because they exist. They don’t meet a life-need, but they make the world a prettier place.

Lewis goes on to compare this to love. If we love people only because we need them, the love is temporary. It’s real, but not really. It’s not unconditional or forever or true. If we love just because, however, the love is lasting and sincere. Of course, only God can truly love in this way. He has absolutely no need for us, and yet He loves us more than anyone else ever will.

Loving Just BecauseIn a perfect world, that would be our primary reason for loving Him back. A primary reason among countless others: He created us. He redeemed us. He is preparing a home for us in Heaven with Him for eternity. He is with us. He will never leave us. He provides and protects. He is everything; He is love.

But the truth is, we need Him. Every heartbeat, every breath comes because He allows it. We are absolutely dependent on the God Who loves us perfectly. We truly are clay in His hands. That makes me very thankful that He loves me; I can’t imagine what life would be like if He did not.

Two practical applications came from this train of thought:

1. In order to move from a need-love relationship with God to a pleasure of appreciation relationship, we need to spend time praising Him every single day. Yes, it’s important to thank Him for all His gifts, for all He does for us. We must continue to do that, but we also must worship Him sincerely for Who He Is. We need to get to know Him, discovering every aspect of His character we can. We need to grow in our appreciation of His very existence every day.

2. We need to examine our relationships with the people in our lives. If any are based solely on need, these are unhealthy (except in the case of babies, who are born completely dependent and must learn how to love). Genuine love is unconditional. It loves just because the other one exists (which means, perhaps, that one comes closest to being able to love in this way when one becomes a parent). I think this is why Jesus told us to serve one another in love and to reach out with hospitality to people who can’t pay us back. It’s in service, in showing and giving love, that we learn to appreciate just because.

Along these lines, if anyone loves us just for what we can provide, we need to be aware that once the need is gone, the love will probably go, too. (It may even go sooner. Just as addicts come to resent the drugs they depend on, people often come to resent people they depend on.) This doesn’t mean we stop loving, but we hold the relationship loosely, refuse to let people idolize us, point them to the One they truly must depend on, and ask God to help us love wisely and well.

We can’t control how others love. It hurts to be loved only because someone wants something from us. It hurts to be rejected when we no longer have anything to offer that someone wants.

Thankfully, there will always be One Who loves us just because He does. He loves us perfectly. Our value rests in His opinion alone. And if we learn to love like He does, He’ll lead us to others who love well and whom we can also love.

Father, please teach us to love as You love because You do. Amen.

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Anchored, Tethered, Rooted, Built Up

Finding Home“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”Colossians 2:6-7

One thing I long for as I move from home to home to home is stability, an anchor of sorts. I’m thinking of a science fiction show I once watched. Can’t quite remember which one, but I do remember that the main character was jumping around in time and needed some kind of tether to keep her attached to her own time. If the tether came undone, she’d never find her way back to her own time. I think I kind of feel like that sometimes. I need for something to remain the same, or I’ll never know when I am “home.”

But there’s a reason why someone once said, “You can’t go home again.” Home as you’ve pictured it changes. Friends you go home to visit move away. Favorite stores close. Nieces and nephews grow up. Grandma changes the way she cooks . . . or relocates . . . to Heaven . . . which inevitably brings changes to all the traditions you once knew. This is how life works, and it happens whether you move a lot or not. But when you’ve been away for a while and come “home” to find all changed, it can feel a little unsettling.

Colossians 2.6-7If we anchor ourselves to these kinds of things, each visit home will be more confusing than the last. We’ll enjoy some of these changes and be disappointed by others, but either way we may still grow to feel increasingly out of place. Attaching ourselves to that which is ever-changing, that is, anything in our physical world, will eventually leave us feeling lost.

Colossians 2:6-7 tells us what we can anchor or tether our moving selves to. Paul uses two different words, though: rooted and built up. Both enhance the idea. If we’re rooted, we’re attached to the ground. As plants gain strength, nutrition, and stability from the ground, we gain the same if the soil we’re rooted in is healthy. Likewise, if we’re built up on a proper foundation, we are standing on something concrete that will support us, keep us level, and enhance our strength when the world around us starts to shake. Of course, Paul was telling his readers to be rooted and built up in Christ. Jesus is our anchor, tether, soil, and foundation wherever we go.

Notice some of the other words Paul uses, though. First he says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue . . .” Continue is another stable word. Some people think being saved is all that matters, but if we’re to enjoy the benefits of saving faith, we must continue to live our lives in Christ.

Paul tells us how with a few more stabilizing words: “strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” Again, we cling to what’s already established: our faith in Christ. Someone introduced us to Him. Then we learned some more about Him. The relationship grew. The relationship must keep growing wherever we go. We may move to another location, but we must continue to talk with God, read His Word, and let Him teach us about Himself and His Kingdom wherever we are. We continue, we’re rooted, we’re built up, and we’re strengthened just as we were taught.

When we live our lives in Christ, we’ll always be anchored, tethered, rooted, and built up. Jesus is the stability we need.

Father, as the world changes all around me, all the time, I am overflowing with thankfulness for the tether You provide. Help me cling to You . . . forever. Amen.

If you found this helpful in your moving journey, I’ve written a whole book of devotionals to encourage you: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

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Praying for People Who Don’t Feel Thankful

Parachute PrayerThough Thanksgiving is a time set aside for giving thanks to God for all He’s given us, I know with certainty that there are many people among us right now who are struggling to do this—if they’re even trying at all. Some are grieving. Some are lonely. Some are desperately in need. Some suffer from depression. For whatever reason, they just aren’t feeling thankful, and, though people can offer thanks to God whether their emotions are involved or not, this is a choice they must wrestle through, one that requires great trust and determination. It’s one that many give up on or refuse by settling for bitterness. As we give thanks for our blessings this week, let’s boost these people with prayer.

And since we’re praying for people who aren’t feeling thankful, let’s let the most unthankful one in our midst remind us to pray for these. When we see our Thanksgiving turkey (or ham), let’s remember that not everyone gets to enjoy a happy Thanksgiving. We make jokes about the poor turkey’s sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice just the same—and we’re thankful for it as we enjoy our dinner with all the fixings!

When God gives us reason to celebrate, we honor Him by doing so with all our heart—especially at Thanksgiving. We’re thanking Him by enjoying the blessings He’s provided, by inviting Him to be present, the Guest of Honor at our feast! But we honor Him even more when we remember in the midst of our fun that some aren’t experiencing it. Let’s take time to pray for their needs.

Father, Thanksgiving is a curious thing. It’s a matter of the heart really. On this soon-coming day, You will watch as some of the most wealthy grumble and complain while some of the most impoverished thank You for whatever they can all day (and the other way around). Circumstance isn’t what enables us to give thanks. So please help people who are struggling to be thankful to find reason for gratitude. Even the turkey, if turkeys could be thankful, might be grateful to discover the purpose of his sacrifice. You created him to feed someone hungry, to be the main course at a meal that honors You.

And Father, as those who are struggling to be thankful wrestle with this, please send comfort their way. You care about heart attitudes, but You also care about circumstances. Please provide what Your people need. Encourage them on their way. Let them know that You are the God Who sees and that You are taking care of them always. For this and so much more, we thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Only One Option Works

DSC00596e“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”John 14:6

I’ll confess. We’re a family of tortilla chip snobs. There is one brand we love. Eating any other kind equals reluctant settling.

Sadly, I’ve only been able to find one store in our area that carries this brand, and that store only keeps the chips in stock for holidays and sporting events that demand great amounts of tortilla chip consumage.

The last time that this store had our chips in stock, I grabbed four extra-large bags of them. (I would have purchased more, but they would have gone stale before we could have eaten them. There are limits to how much you can stock up on tortilla chips.) When I got to the check-out stand, the cashier said, “You must be throwing a big party.”

I said, “Oh, no. Your store doesn’t have these chips in stock very often, so I get a bunch whenever you do.”

“Are they that good?” she asked.

I assured her they were. On the way out the door, I thought, “Wouldn’t it have been great if she’d asked me about Jesus instead of tortilla chips?”

Jesus is the One I love. No other religion, person, or substance can satisfy my soul. Not only is He my Savior, the One Who gave His life to open the door to Heaven for me, but He’s also my best Friend. Jesus offers peace, joy (even in the midst of heartache), wisdom, patience, and compassion. He loves me like no one else can.

He wants to do and be all of this for you as well—and He’s the only One Who can. Anything else is settling and will never satisfy. Jesus is the way to Heaven, the Truth that sets you free of the pain that comes from believing this world’s lies, and the One Who gives us life: abundant life, eternal life, a life that’s worth living.

If you haven’t met Him yet, I recommend Him to you! Click here to read more about the life Jesus offers. There’s no sufficient way to put this relationship into words; Jesus is Someone you must experience. But I promise that if you reach out to Him by seeking to know Him through His Word, the Bible, by talking to Him like you would talk to a friend, and by telling Him you really want to experience Him like others do, He will be there for you. And You will be thankful—eternally.

Jesus, I love You! Please draw others to love You, too. You are the way, the truth, and the life, the One Who leads us to the Father and into the best relationship of all. I’m so thankful for all You’ve given to me, what You make available to all! I don’t want anyone to miss out. Please reach them, Lord. Amen.

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Psalm 86:11-12 on My Mind

NewOMMThis week, I’m trying to memorize Psalm 86:11-12. Won’t you join me? Or leave a comment to let me know what you’re memorizing. (I may want to memorize that next!)

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”Psalm 86:11-12NRSV

Notice that the Psalmist makes two requests, yet longs to do four things. He asks God to:

  • teach him His way and
  • give him an undivided heart.

He wants to:

  • walk in God’s Truth,
  • revere God’s name,
  • give thanks to God, and
  • glorify His name forever.

Lord, the Psalmist longed to live fully for you. Please give us everything we need to do so, too. You are worthy, Lord, of all we have to give—our undivided and grateful hearts most of all. Thank You for teaching and providing, so we may walk with, revere, give thanks to, and glorify You alone, forever and ever! Amen.

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Learning to Be Thankful

“Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

DSC02015e“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”John 6:8-11, NIV

Recently, our family watched the movie, Son of God, which dramatizes the story of Jesus’ life powerfully. I was especially touched when the movie got to this scene, labelled in my Bible, Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand. With hungry people crowding all around them, the disciples hold a basket toward Jesus to show Him the two tiny fish and the little bit of bread. As I looked at the contents of the basket, the disciples’ question suddenly seemed quite valid, though we, with the benefit of historical record, often consider it foolish: “How far will they go among so many?”

But Jesus simply bowed His head and prayed, “Thank You, Father.”

The question struck me in that moment, “What if we were thankful, too?”

Just last night, I was overwhelmed by my schedule for the rest of this year. I was praying, “Lord, how will I ever get it all done? What must I sacrifice? I want to finish it all and enjoy it as I do!” Then I remembered the movie . . . the Bible story . . . the historical record . . . the thought. I fell asleep praying, “Thank You, Father, for the time that I have. Help me to use it wisely. I’m trusting You to provide more than enough! I know You can. If You’re leading me to do all of these things, then I know You will.”

God prompted me to change my attitude from despair and worry to thankfulness and trust. This was a great relief!

Other times we might need to do this:

  • Lord, I don’t have the money . . .
  • Lord, I don’t have the energy . . .
  • Lord, I don’t have anyone to help me . . .
  • Lord, I don’t have the know-how for this task . . .

Whatever the need, we can train ourselves, with God’s help, to approach the problem with thanksgiving and trust. We thank God for what He has provided. We ask Him to help us use what we have carefully. We trust Him to provide the rest, enough, maybe more, maybe more than we could have imagined—according to His perfect will for our lives! Our lack is His opportunity to shine. Let’s be thankful for what He’s given, then let’s see what He will do on our behalf.

Father, please forgive us when we lose sight of what we have, focusing instead on what we lack. You love us, and You know exactly what we need. So we thank You for all You have given, and we entrust our problems to You. Help us to use Your gifts well and to trust You to provide anything else that we will need as we live for You. You are good. You are all powerful. We love You! Amen.