Even If…

forest-1529055__480 fear pixa 7 9 18I used to struggle with fear. A month or so ago my sister challenged me to put into words the change God has wrought in me. It’s taken awhile for me to find a way to do that, but now I realize the heart of the matter comes from switching just one word for another.

What if?” has become “Even if!”

Recognition of all the hard things life can bring is now enveloped in the realization that I’ll never face any of those things without the surrounding love of our Lord. My fear of what might happen has been overcome by my assurance that, while most of the things my imagination drums up will never occur, even those that do will be managed by my King.

And I am not alone in this understanding.

  • Daniel 3:16-18 tells us, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”
  • Esther 4:15-16 says, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
  • And in Matthew 26: 39-42, you can read this about Jesus: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’…He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

We’ve all been plagued by imaginary horrors, by the “What if?” that marches across the brain, pushing out peace. I hope you’ll take up the weapon of “Even if!” to join Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and our Lord in defeating the enemy in his fearful ploys, finding the peace that passes understanding once again!

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What’s in Your Cup?

teacup pixa 5 16 18Last Saturday I went to a ladies’ tea at church. My church. Do you know what a big deal it is feel at home in a church here already? A quarter century at NorthWest Bible Church was a tough act to follow. (Stop doing the math. I’m older, but not old yet!)

My friend Lea Castillo gave the devotional Saturday. I loved it and asked her to allow me to turn her notes into a blog. She kindly agreed, so all you read today comes from her heart and her story.

Do you have a cup of tea (or coffee, or…) by your side as you’re reading this? I hope so, but if not, just conjure one up in your imagination. Now look inside.

Is it half full? Half empty? Maybe it’s nearly dry or overflowing. You’ve already heard that familiar lesson before about perspective and positive attitude, so let’s take a look at your cup in a different light…

Your cup of tea is enough.

Today, whatever God provides you will be enough. You may be clueless as to what’s heading your way, but our Lord knows, and he will always provide what you need to live this day.

Sadly, we do this awful thing, you and I. We oh-so-often evaluate our “enoughness.” We ask ourselves, are we

  • good looking enough?
  • strong enough?
  • smart enough?

Then we evaluate the sufficiency of our situation, wondering if we have enough

  • money.
  • time.
  • opportunity.

One morning, when I finally had a chance to sleep late, my “not enoughs” badgered me into an unwelcome consciousness. I was losing my battle for peace and rest when, to make matters worse, a bunch of birds started making a racket outside my window. They just wouldn’t stop. And then, they spoke to me. Okay, not exactly, but God used them to get my attention and to remind me of this verse:

Look at the birds in the sky. They do not plant seeds. They do not gather grain. They do not put grain into a building to keep. Yet your Father in heaven feeds them! Are you not more important than the birds?(Matthew 6:26 NLV).

That’s when divine logic kicked in:

  • The birds always have enough.
  • I’m more important to God than the birds.
  • So I will always have enough!

And with God’s enoughness, I can face anything that life brings. On some days, the “tea in my cup” may not be as sweet as I’d like. It might not taste the way I was expecting, but God is still giving me enough.

We who question our enoughness are in great spiritual company. Even Moses did it. God’s answer?

“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV).

Our Lord is with us! The next time your cup looks empty, remember:

God always fills it—fills you—with enough, because he is enough.

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

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Now and then, when I was a teenager back at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, I was given the honor of turning down the lights in the sanctuary just as the congregation got to the last line of this great hymn. Picture this: The pews are filled at the Sunday night service. It’s dark outside, but bright inside, as the final hymn begins. Then the lights go down just as all in attendance sing, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” The backlit cross at the front of the church now stands out in stark focus as a hush falls over the room. A little dramatic? Maybe, except that I still see that cross in my mind’s eye and feel that hush in my heart, often just when I’m about to forget about God’s glory and grace.

We can’t dim the lights on the rest of life as easily as I could turn that rheostat back then. Would that we could! Maybe instead, we need to shine greater light on the glory and grace that surrounds us. He is everything. Our full supply. That’s what Helen Lemmel was trying to convey when she penned these lyrics.

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Are you, like so many of us, troubled by “the things of earth” today? Is your heavenly vision a bit blurred? Take a breath. Take a moment. Remember whose you are and who He is. Enjoy the right you have as a child of God to fellowship with the Creator of the universe. And let those things that trouble you fade in the light of his glory, with the realization that, while you may not be able to see how right now, his grace is and always will be enough.

Curious About George?

George Muller Wikipedia 2018Born in 1805, George Müller started life as a thief. Yep, a thief. Later, though, as a Christian, he established much needed orphanages in England. Here’s how dire the situation was: “When the new Orphan House was being built, nearly six thousand young orphans were living in the prisons of England because there was no other place for them to go.”[1]

George wanted to help those children. He also wanted to convince people that God answers prayer. Thus, as part of his MO, he never asked for funding or publicized his needs. “He knew that God could incline the hearts of men to aid him, and he believed that if the work was of Him, He would meet every need. Thus, in childlike simplicity, he looked to God, and all that he needed was furnished as punctually as if he was a millionaire drawing regularly on his bank account.”[2]

What can we learn from George? His autobiography describes these steps toward a life of faith:[3]

  • Expect to have difficulty in this world, for it is not our home, yet all difficulties may be overcome by acting according to the Word of God.
  • Carefully read the Bible and meditate on it…Become acquainted with the nature and character of God. But be warned—the work of the Lord itself may tempt us away from communion with Him, yet public prayer will never make up for closet communion
  • Maintain an upright heart and a good conscience. Do not knowingly and habitually indulge in things that are contrary to the mind of God.
  • Don’t shrink from opportunities for faith to be tested. These allow us to see God’s help and deliverance, which in turn increase our faith.
  • Let God work. When a trail of faith comes, stand firm in trusting God. He will prove his willingness to help and deliver at the perfect time. The longer the wait, or the greater the need, the greater the enjoyment when at last the answer comes.

Wayland Lincoln, penned the words below as closing remarks for George’s autobiography. They are the perfect way to close today.

“No Christian, however poor and humble, should despair of doing a noble work for God. One never needs to wait until he can obtain the cooperation of the multitude or the wealthy. Let him undertake what he believes to be his duty, on ever so small a scale, and look directly to God for aid and direction. If God has planted the seed, it will take root, grow, and bear fruit.” [4]

(And one more thing, lest any of you think it is too late in life for God to use you. Check out this quote from Wikipedia about George: “On 26 March 1875, at the age of 70 and after the death of his first wife in 1870 and his marriage to Susannah Grace Sanger in 1871, Müller and Susannah began a 17-year period of missionary travel.” Wow!)

[1] Müller, George. The Autobiography of George Müller. Whitaker House, 1985, p. 219.

[2] Ibid., p. 8.

[3] Paraphrased.

(4) Muller, George. The Autobiography of George Müller. Whitaker House, 1985, p. 230.

What a Mighty God We Serve!

children singing pub dom pics pixabay 4 2018

I used to have quite a collection of cassette tapes. (Remember those?) They made the days of running countless errands (before Amazon!) more entertaining for me and for my kids. I can still hear the perky kids’ tunes in my memory. One of the verses playing in my head this morning is an African folk song possibly recorded first by Hezekiah Walker. It goes like this:

  • What a mighty God we serve!
  • What a mighty God we serve!
  • Angels bow before him.
  • Heaven and earth adore him.
  • What a mighty God we serve!

It’s a good reminder, don’t you think? Sometimes the day ahead of us looks too big, too challenging, and we shrink back a bit as it begins. We need not, because we are facing it with a mighty God!

You know by now that I love the works of Hannah Whitall Smith. In The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, she lists a dozen Bible based reminders of how mighty our God is, how very much he cares about us, and how his might and care affect our daily lives:

  • Not a sparrow falls to the ground outside of his care.
  • The very hairs of our head are numbered.
  • We’re commanded to cease all worry, because our Father cares for us.
  • We’re not to avenge ourselves, because our Father will defend us.
  • We have no reason to fear, for God is on our side.
  • No one can be against us, because he is for us.
  • We lack nothing, because he is our Shepherd.
  • He shuts the mouths of lions, quenches flames, delivers us and rescues us.
  • Kings and rulers come and go according to his will.
  • He rules the wind and waves.
  • He thwarts the plans of nations.
  • He does whatever pleases him in the heavens and on the earth.

I hope you are facing only pleasant things today. But if, like most of us, you will meet challenges before the evening comes, be encouraged. Let your heart cry out before every difficulty, “What a mighty God we serve!”

(And if you’d like to be reminded of that fact by a choir of children’s voices, check out Cedarmont Kids here.)

 

 

Sultan and the Frisbee

frisbee-380332_1280 pixabay 1 16 18

Since I’ve asked you to share some of your miraculous moments (and please keep them coming), I thought I’d tell you one of my own today.

We were still newlyweds, and hadn’t lived in that first house in northwest Houston for very long. Homeownership was a both a blessing and a burden.

·       We had a big yard, but finding time to cut the grass was a bit of a challenge.

·       We had a dog, Springer, who, despite turning out to be half the size the pound said she would be, brought us great joy for over a decade and a half.

·       And we had terrific neighbors, two of whom had the coolest dogs we had ever seen. (Sorry, Springer!) Steve got his “big dog fix” across the street.

Prince and Sultan were jet black Belgian sheepdogs, gorgeously groomed and perfectly trained. They were also very well fed. One winter weekend, their owners went out of town. We volunteered to care for the dogs in their absence. We learned to prepare the rather complicated meals to which those pampered pooches were accustomed, placing several ingredients into each dog dish and then squishing them together by hand. (Fortunately, Steve didn’t mind. I kept my hands clean.)

The neighbors left. We fed the dogs. Then we stayed outside playing Frisbee until well after sundown. Back inside, washing up for our own late dinner, Steve realized his wedding band was missing. His first thought, of course, was that it might have become an unplanned addition to the dog food. This was not a pleasant thought in any way shape or form, as by then the dog dishes were licked clean. Then we thought about the Frisbee game.

The grass was a bit longer than usual at the time. And rings can be a bit loose on chilly nights. Had that precious bit of gold been flung who-knows-where into the yard? Although beginning to search felt like a needle in a haystack impossibility, we pulled out a flashlight and prayed. God used the very next moment to teach us that he cares about every detail of our lives. No prayer is too big, too small, or too difficult for him. Steve turned the flashlight toward the lawn and there, right there, in the first spot the spotlight lit, was his wedding band. Enough said!